Think of a Therapist as a Personal Trainer

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In my bubble of a 30-something in NYC, talking about therapy is fairly common. It nonchalantly comes up in conversations. And most of the people I meet go to one. So I was recently surprised when someone, outside of my bubble, was embarrassed about starting therapy. They told me, “I’m only going to her until I get out of this funk. Don’t let it get around.” This person was seriously ashamed about seeking help.

Why does seeking out help have such a stigma to it? Well, only certain types of help right? Getting help to improve your physical health isn’t looked down upon. Having a nutritionist, diet counselor, or personal trainer isn’t embarrassing. But there are different aspects of our health. And mental health is just as important as physical health.

You hire a personal trainer to get our bodies in shape. So why is it so weird to hire a personal trainer to get our minds in shape?


Why Do We Need Help in the First Place?

There are thousands of books on running, eating healthy, and working out. You’ve probably read a few of these. You know exactly what you need to do. You need to eat less, work out more, eat less fats, and eat more vegetables. Yet, you’re not doing that. You know what you need to do but you don’t do it. Or you do it briefly. Sporadically.

The same is for emotions. There are thousands of self-help books on controlling your anger, interpersonal communications, and relationships. You know exactly what you need to do. You need to stay calm, think before you speak, and open yourself up more. Yet, you’re not doing that. You know what you need to do but you don’t do it.


We Are Only Human

So, if you know what we need to do, why aren’t you doing it? Well, you’re only human. We all need help sometimes. We need to be held accountable and encouraged. This is why books & reading don’t work. They’re not as motivating as one person. You don’t have anyone to answer to when reading a book. But when you see a personal trainer or a therapist, you check-in with this person once a week. They help you stay on track. And they give you a break when you need it. This is also why most training plans in books aren’t always practical.

Unfortunately, talking about mental health can be embarrassing because it is so invisible. Until it’s not, of course. If you tell someone you’re seeing a physical trainer, they will likely be happy and encourage you. Maybe you’ve had some unhealthy eating habits lately. These can be noticeable. But it’s more difficult talking about therapy. You can’t always see mental illnesses. Especially when people hide them.


It needs to become acceptable everywhere to care about our mental health. Seeing a therapist doesn’t mean you’re crazy. Just as seeing a personal trainer doesn’t mean you’re obese.

If you’d like to start seeing a therapist but am not sure how to go about it, here’s a little guide.


Winning Web Awards Since 1997

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Unofficially, I’ve received the Versatile Blogger Award. Or I’ve been nominated to receive it? I don’t know how it works. Really, it’s a chain letter. Recipients are supposed to write seven “interesting facts” about them. Then nominate (award?) fifteen other blogs. Well, since I was only unofficially nominated, I’m breaking the rules.


Website Awards 4Ever

Looking at this award reminded me of the first website award I ever received. In highschool I loved music. So I decided to create a lyrics website hosted by Geocities. Of course. I painstakingly wrote individual html files of lyrics for songs & albums that I liked. It was pretty subjective.

Actually, when the site began, I hosted midi files too. And for some reason I had a Stone Temple Pilots midi file auto-playing on the site. I remember being told that my site didn’t qualify for a web award because of the auto-play music. Once I took that off… winner!

The first website award that Lyrics site won was called… I have no idea. And I don’t know why website awards are still occurring almost 20 years later. Winning one mattered nothing back then and still matters little now. Although back then it was certainly less of a circle-jerk chain letter. Someone was simply telling you that they like your content and work.


It All Began on Geocities

Thinking back to that first award made me also think back on the evolution of the web as I’ve seen it. It seems like I’ve been on the Internet a very long time. I first began teaching myself HTML when I was 14 years old, in 1996. The Lyrics site began in 1997. I stopped working on it in 2004. That’s seven years.

After the first year, I moved the site off of Geocities and onto FTP space provided by our local ISP provider. Back when Internet and Cable were not tied together. Our ISP offered a limited amount of web space with every account. At first, every time you uploaded a file, you had to send an email with the subject “Update” before it would be fully published. After a month of me sending hundreds of these emails, they finally changed their policy.

Surprisingly, this Lyrics site was pretty popular. I remember receiving numerous emails a day requesting songs. Or general emails from people who liked the same music. This was before SEO and social media. The Internet was much less organized. I am still currently in contact with people I met through the site.

And Then The Blogging Begins

In 2000, I started a blog on the Blogger platform. Before Google owned them. It was a two-person blog, written by me and my boyfriend at the time. We took advantage of the free web hosting provided by Michigan State University to all students. This was a full-on personal blog. I have no idea why people read us. But they did. And I made a few close connections through it. Monetizing blogs wasn’t really happening then. Social Media wasn’t what it is today. MySpace was just starting. We closed the blog in 2004 after a mutual break-up.

Also in 2004, I bought my first domain name. That started it all and now I own way too many.

The Current State of Blogging

I didn’t start blogging again until 2009. In the five years between, I moved from Michigan to New Jersey. And juggled jobs a little bit to try to find a career path. Money was definitely tight. I was hired as a straight-up php web developer. I wrote php code and mssql queries all day long. These are skills I can do but don’t quite enjoy them. And they aren’t very creative.

My love for budgets began in college. Where I also had little money. I discovered The Simple Dollar and created a budget spreadsheet. I continued reading about Trent for years. But in 2009 I grew fed-up with his midwestern, family focus. By this time, installing Word Press was far less tedious that it had been years ago. So I decided to buy a domain, purchase hosting, and start a Word Press blog. I wanted to provide a financial perspective for other 20-somethings who were single/living alone or with roommates.

By this time, Twitter and social media was important. Just like my previous sites, I have made numerous connections and friendships. I’m still enjoying writing and web publishing. I like having a web development background. I still use it from time to time but thankfully it is no longer my career.


I’ve Been On The Internet Too Long

In the 17 years I have been on the Internet, I’m pretty proud of the three websites I’ve started from scratch. And now I can say that two out of three of them have received an all-important website award.


What Have You Done That You Didn’t Think You’d Do?

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What have you done in your life that you never thought you would or could do?

Focus on your accomplishments instead of dwelling on “what am i doing with my life?”

After recently having a birthday. And being single and over 30. Sometimes I have the passing thought of “what am i doing with my life?”. And “I never thought my life would be like this.” I don’t have these thoughts often. And thankfully I no longer get wrapped up in them like I did when severely depressed. But they still pop up every now and again.

Stop Those Thoughts. Reverse It.

One way to talk yourself out of these self-deprecating thoughts is to turn it around. Instead of thinking about what you haven’t accomplished that you thought you would, think about what you have done that you never thought you could.

As a child I probably thought I’d be married by now. As a child I also thought 30 was “old age”. And also as a child, I never thought I would be running half marathons. I never thought I would see the Northern Lights. I never thought I would live in NYC.

There are plenty of things that I never thought I would, could, or wanted to do in my life. Yet I am here doing them.


I Could Never Do That

Running is the top thing I never thought I would do. And I mean that. I had actual thoughts saying “I will never run for fun. I hate running. Why do people run?” (Okay, I still have these thoughts).

In school, I hated gym class. I wasn’t out of shape or overweight. I just hated gym class, physical activity, running, sports, teams, competition, etc. I wasn’t very good at it and didn’t care either way. I didn’t participate in any sports through school.

Above all, I hated running. Part of the New York State physical fitness test is to have every student run a mile. During the yearly mile run, I would be in the back, walking it, with the other gym class outcasts. I wouldn’t even attempt to run it. I wouldn’t even start out jogging. We were just walking and chatting. Didn’t care.

I started running for health in college. Even now I still don’t enjoy it. But I do it. It keeps me healthy. Running is absolutely something I never thought I would do. I never thought I could be capable of running any distance. Let alone a half marathon. Let alone that would turn into a hobby.


Change Your Focus To Remind Yourself Of Your Strengths

So sure, I haven’t yet done a lot of things I thought I would do by the time I was 30. But I’ve had the self-discipline to start and continue running. To challenge myself many times. To stay fit & healthy. To stay motivated and ambitious.

Besides, what did 18-year old me know about anything anyway?


Netflix Instant Satire: Fido, Team America, Galaxy Quest

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Fido (2006) / Zombie Satire

Fido Horror Comedy on Netflix

Zombies movies are overdone. Even sarcastic ones. But Fido is still worth watching. It’s set in a world that has a handle on its zombie problem. Zombies can be tamed and essentially controlled with a hi-tech collar. Zombies are kept as pets, servants, and for manual labor. Killing zombies and keeping them around trained is perfectly normal. So this isn’t so much about an unexpected zombie attack. It’s simply about life with zombies.

The main character is a young boy named Timmy who has a pet zombie named Fido. There you go. The 1950’s-esqe world grows a little tiresome but it also adds to the humor. The film is a good mix of old and original zombie concepts. Plus it’s fun to think about a functioning world with zombies. Rather than the usual dystopian tales.

For Halloween season, this is a good pick. The humor keeps it from being too scary. Yet there is enough gore to satisfy a horror fan.

Runtime: 92 min
Leslie Rating: 4/5
Summary: The wit of Sean Of The Dead with more gore.


Team America: World Police (2004) / Animated Satire

Team America on Netflix

Continuing the theme is a movie whose entire premise is based on satire. Team America does little other than parody action movies and the state of politics at that time. And that’s what makes it great.

Nothing about the film is politically correct. And little is subtle. One of the more memorable scenes for me was the montage. Some of the lyrics, “If you want to go from beginner to a pro, you need a montage”. Classy.

This in-your-face humor isn’t typically my style but I actually quite enjoyed Team America.

Runtime: 97 min
Leslie Rating: 3/5
Summary: Over-the-top satirical take on action movies and Bush politics.


Galaxy Quest (1999) / Sci-Fi Satire

Galaxy Quest on Netflix

Galaxy Quest works off the premise of real aliens mistaking sci-fi tv actors for actual heroes in space. Sure, it’s predictable. But the great cast work well off each other. And it’s enjoyable straight through.

There’s quite a few big names here with Tim Allen, Alan Rickman, and Sigourney Weaver. But thankfully the movie doesn’t get muddled. In the movie, they all play washed-up actors on an old sci-fi tv show (think: Star Trek). They are all tired of playing these characters but still make an appearance at a sci-fi convention. It is there they are approached by a real space team in trouble! Oh now!

Sure it’s a predictable plot but it’s a good-natured one and you will smile.

Runtime: 102 min
Leslie Rating: 3/5
Summary: Sci-fi actors need to save the planet, for real this time.


Prevent Burn Out By Not Completing Tasks Every Day

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Stop doing things every day to prevent burnout and actually reach your goals

Customize the Goal Tracking Spreadsheet to meet your goals without burnout

Habit creation really can be a challenge. Often times, we tell ourselves that to make something a habit we have to do it every day. Every. Single. Day. And for the first week you actually do it. Because you’re excited! This is great! I feel great flossing every day. Or sweeping every day. Or doing sit-ups every day. But this is actually not sustainable nor necessary for most tasks.

Inevitably we fail. Once the excitement wears off. The one day we get tired. We don’t do it. Now your whole streak has fallen apart. Now the entire week is completely ruined because you missed a day. And if the week is now ruined, why not just skip tomorrow? Let’s just call this week a wash and start anew next week. But then next week comes around and you’ve completely lost your momentum. Now you feel guilty for messing up last week. And have lost all interest in having flossed teeth or photoshop-esque abs.

Setting Ourselves Up For Failure

When it comes to goals & habits, we constantly set ourselves up for failure. It is unrealistic to go from never doing something to doing something every single day. Of course you’re going to screw up. You’ve spent hundreds of days not flossing your teeth before bed. And all of a sudden we expect ourselves to diligently become a flosser overnight. You have never flossed before but now you will floss your teeth every single day for the rest of your life.

That’s just not how things work. That’s not how our brains work. Our brains don’t like big scopes. Well, we use big scopes as an excuse. At some point, you decide that flossing every single day is hard. Or you don’t have time to sweep the floor every day. Or you’re just too tired to do sit-ups tonight. And when you think about having to do this again tomorrow and the next day and the next day. Well, our brains just tell us to give up. That is too many sit-ups. Too much sweeping. And too much flossing.

The Key to Forming Habits is Keeping a Routine

Instead, I will argue to set-up a weekly routine to help form habits. Even if these are to be daily habits like flossing. Start out with low expectations.

Change “floss every day” to “floss Wednesdays and Sundays”. That’s it. Two days a week. It is far easier to transition from nothing to 2, than nothing to forever. And flossing two days a week is still better than not at all!

What this does, is help you develop a routine. Monday is for sweeping. Tuesday is a break day. Wednesday is for flossing. Thursdays are sit-ups. Fridays and Saturdays you’re free. And Sunday floss again. Mentally, this is far easier for our brains to tackle. And it makes you less likely to skip a day.

Before, I would skip flossing because I’d tell myself that I’ll just do it tomorrow. And I’m only skipping one day. But now, I have it in my head that flossing is on Wednesday and Sunday. I don’t need to skip it if I’m only doing it twice a week. Then over time, I’ll realize that it’s not too difficult. And I can extend this habit to Friday’s. Until eventually I’m flossing every day because it doesn’t feel like a chore. And it actually feels weird when I don’t do it! That is the sign of a fully established habit.

It’s Okay To Break The Chain

This does go completely against Seinfeld’s chain method. I get it. You do something every day to get better at it. But you can’t start out that way. You have to build up to it. Ideally, you do want to floss every day. But you can’t immediately start flossing every day. Because this is why we fail at our goals so often. This is why we never completely form habits.

Tracking non-daily weekly goals sets us up for easy wins. And these easy wins keep us motivated. And excited to keep going. With small requirements, we are less likely to fail. We don’t like failing. Failing means we quit. This way, our motivation stays constant.

Having a routine means your goals are flexible. Yes you should floss every day. But flossing four times a week is still better than not at all.

How To Track Weekly Goals

I’ve been successfully using my weekly habit-creation spreadsheet since June. In that time I have started flossing daily, cleaning up the kitchen before bed, and a few other habits part of my bedtime routine. I am trying to form new habits. But not too many at once.

Also remember, you won’t create a habit or reach a goal, if it doesn’t follow your life value. Every goal you make should be based on something you value in your life. You need to know why you have these goals in the first place. Many times, we are actually going after someone else’s goals. Thinking this is what we need to do to be successful.

What do you value? Health, Family, Friends? What are you doing each day to make sure your life follows those values? Some of these types of goals aren’t measurable. But that’s okay as long as you know why you want to do them at all.


Visiting the Museum of American Finance on Wall St

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The Museum of American Finance was founded in 1988. It is on Wall St, right next to the 2,3 subway stop. In the Financial District, of course. Just a few blocks away from the New York Stock Exchange. Admission is free on Saturdays; $8 other days.

The Museum of American Finance located at 48 Wall St in NYC

The Museum of American Finance located at 48 Wall St in NYC

The building is absolutely beautiful. It used to be the headquarters for the Bank of New York. It has a bank feel, which definitely works for the museum.

American Museum Finance Doors on Wall St


Exhibits & Information

History Exhibits in the Museum of American Finance

History Exhibits in the Museum of American Finance

This is largely a reading museum. Although very educational, half of the museum is focused on the stock market and likely wouldn’t hold the attention of a small child. There are many hands-on interactive pieces but these focus more on text than images. This is a museum for adults who love history or money or both.

The former headquarters of the Bank of New York is now home to the Museum of American f Finance

The former headquarters of the Bank of New York is now home to the Museum of American f Finance

The upper part focuses on history. There is an exhibit on the history of American currency, Alexander Hamilton, Checks & Credit, and the Federal Reserve. This includes lots of historical tidbits. I really do recommend reading everything.

Investment Choices and Information at the Museum of American Finance

Investment Choices and Information at the Museum of American Finance

The lower part focuses solely on the stock market, stock exchange, and investments. The history of the Dow Jones is a great exhibit. Pieces of history are discussed in context of whether the stock market dropped or increased. Pretty interesting if you’re into economics history.

Warren Buffet on the Stock Market

There a few really great panels educating investing. I think I learned more about individual investments in this exhibit than I ever did from pf blogs & Internet literature on the topic. It breaks down what the types of investments are. Where your money goes. How to read a stock ticker. How to calculate yield. Plus some history of the stock market and key investors.

Yield calculation


Museum of American Finance is Worth the Trip

MAF_inside7

It should take you about 1–2 hours to see everything in this museum. I left in a little under two hours and I took the time to read everything. It’s a small museum but definitely worth a stop. Especially if you are into American history. Or economics. And live in nyc. There is no reason not to stop by here on a Saturday. It’s free. And in an easily accessible part of Financial District.

Free admission every Saturday

Free admission every Saturday

If you’re visiting, it’s difficult for me to recommend spending limited time here. But if it really piques your interest, you’ll find it’s worth it.


Netflix Instant Picks: Dirty Dancing, Twin Peaks, Rounders

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Dirty Dancing (1987) / Romance Dance

Dirt Dancing on Netflix

When I was younger, I thought this was just a movie about dancing. The actual plot of class differences went right over my head. Although it seemed to be a common theme in the 1980’s. Movies like Some Kind of Wonderful and Pretty in Pink both dealt with teenagers, hormones, and the class system in the United States. But Dirty Dancing has a twist. Literally. It has become the quintessential dance movie.

For the teen dance genre, this movie has it all. Forbidden love, social issues, an abortion, family relationships, dance montages, and a coming of age story at the center of it all.

The cast is perfect. It’s unfortunate Jennifer Grey didn’t make it farther than she did. But this was certainly Patrick Swayze’s break-through film. Although the plot gets a bit convoluted it pulls through. And that’s why this movie is a classic.

Runtime: 105 min
Leslie Rating: 5/5
Summary: The classic teen dance romance


Twin Peaks (1990) / TV Mystery

Twin Peaks on Netflix

The television series Twin Peaks didn’t grab my attention until college. And even then it was just a show I had vaguely heard about. Curious, I rented the first season from my local video store and marathoned it over a weekend. At the time, Season 2 wasn’t available. Thankfully it is now.

It’s not a surprise that a David Lynch created tv series would become a cult classic. This show is everything you’d expect it to be. Creepy, mysterious, witty, and confusing. All in good ways of course.

Twin Peaks has definitely become something bigger than the show. There are numerous related events in NYC. From bingo to live performances of bands playing the soundtrack. But now the show that started everything is can be easily streamed. Even if it doesn’t exactly meet your interests, I recommend watching a few episodes just to experience what is definitely a cult classic.

Runtime: 2 Seasons
Leslie Rating: 4/5
Summary: An FBI agent investigates the death of Laura Palmer in a small town.


Rounders (1998) / Gambling Drama

Rounders on Netflix

It should be noted that I am a big fan of Edward Norton. So I am definitely biased when it comes to his movies.

In Rounders, good ole Matt Damon pairs up with gambling-addict Norton. The basic plot is these two need to come up with $15K in less than a week. That may sound overdone. But the two actors work well off of each other. And no scene is unnecessarily dramatic. Norton plays the troublemaker while Damon is a law student with a soft spot.

It can be predictable in parts but I do recommend riding it out. If you’re into gambling movies that don’t take place in Vegas, this is the one for you.

Runtime: 120 min
Leslie Rating: 4/5
Summary: Two card sharks need to get five thousand dollars in five days.

What Is NaNoWriMo and Why Should I Sign Up?

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I have participated in NaNoWriMo three times and won twice. And by win I mean, I completed the 50,000 words. I have written about this experience. My first year. A survival guide. And the next steps. This is such a unique project and experience, I want to write about it once more.

nanowrimo lets go

What Is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Upon signing up, you agree to write a 50,000 novel in solely the 30 days of November. You can start writing from midnight November 1st and have until 11:59p November 30th to complete. To win, you must write an average of 1,667 words a day.

On November 30th, you upload your story on the website for the sole purpose of verifying the word count. This so you can be declared an official winner. No one will be reading your story or have access to it.

Other than self-pride, winner’s are also eligible to purchase an official winner t-shirt. Plus some discounts on software like Scrivener and other writing-related products.

Where Do I Sign Up?

To officially participate, you need to register on the NaNoWriMo website. From there, you go to my account. Here you can enter the title of your 2014 novel. During the challenge, each day you will enter your word count total and the website keeps track.

Also on the website are forums, which are a fantastic resource. Use their forums to commiserate with other Wrimo’s, participate in online write-in’s, and meet up with locals. It’s this last bit that I’ve found the most useful.

You will be thinking of nothing else but your novel so it’s nice to be with like-minded folks.

What Are The Rules?

The rules for NaNoWriMo are pretty loose. The main parts are you need to write 50,000 words of a fiction novel between November 1 & November 30th of the same year.

However, there have known to be NaNo rebels. This includes writing a non-fiction or autobiographical piece. It also includes working on an already started project. Of course, no one but you will know the difference. No one at the Letters offices are actually reading your story.


How Many Pages Is 50,000 Words?

This is a trick question because it depends on page size, font type, and many other factors. Here are some word counts for books you may know:

  • Animal Farm: ~30K Words
  • Farenheit 451: ~46K Words
  • The Great Gatsby: ~47K Words
  • Slaughterhouse Five: ~49K Words
  • The Catcher In The Rye: ~73K Words

Technically speaking, anything longer than 40K words is a novel. Less than that is a novella. However, you would not send a 50,000 word novel out to an agent or publisher. You’d need at least three times that because so much gets cuts out in editing.

NaNoWriMo is primarily for the motivation and kick start some need to get writing. It in no way fully prepares you for publishing.

What Do I Write On?

As far as actual device, that is up to you. You even can use pencil & paper. Just remember you will need to upload a document to verify your word count at the end. Otherwise, you’re free to choose the device that works best for you. Laptop, desktop, tablet, phone. It doesn’t matter as long as it gets the job done.

Software doesn’t make too much of a difference either. Although it would be useful if your writing program of choice did have a full screen mode. I have found that to be incredibly useful, regardless of actual program. Also useful for NaNo is if the program alerts you when you’ve met your daily word goal. This will keep you on track each day.

The first two years I used Focus Writer. It is a very simple text editor that essentially only runs in full screen mode. It is free and is open source. So anyone can use it. But it is only a text editor. And moving around in your story can get tedious. However, I did win my first year using it.

After I won, I took advantage of a discount for Scrivener. Scrivener is what I used to write, and complete, my third NaNo novel. This is a serious writing program. I absolutely love it. And I even blog using it. In fact, I am working in it as I type this.

It is pretty essential to fiction writing though. As it provides note cards where you can outline chapters & sections. You can add character and setting notes that are easy to reference later. There is a full screen mode. And everything is kept extremely organized.

While all of the bells and whistles may seem like they would be distracting. Really, it makes the writing process more efficient. It’s only $40 and I highly recommend it.

December is for Editing

One of the most useful tips for me is, “November is for writing, December is for editing.” Try to stifle the urge to edit as you go. That is for later. Right now it is just about getting words down on paper. Pulling ideas out of your head. Developing characters. Working out a plot.

You don’t even need to finish your story to win. It just needs to be at least 50,000 words long. Don’t focus too much on the nuances of your story. Just enjoy creating it. You can tear it apart soon enough.

nanowrimo exhausted

The Only Social Activity in November

It’s likely the only social activity you’ll be a part of in November is with other Wrimo’s. Many cities have great ambassadors who set up write-in’s, socials, and other activities to provide motivation and support.

The NYC Forums are fantastic. There is a special twitter account, google calendar, and mailing list. Last year we pitted the boroughs against each other in a word off. The group has one write-in a week per borough. A friday night social as a much needed break. And parties at the beginning & end of the month. It’s a really nice sense of community.

Suggested Reading to Get Started

There have been a few well-known published novels that began as NaNoWriMo stories. Including Water for Elephants and The Night Circus. You can read them for motivation.

There are also some fantastic writing references that can be read before starting your writing. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg, and On Writing by Stephen King. I personally recommend those as a writing reference, but also as plain good reading material.


Emergency Contact Information Template

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Mel has a great death prep series and I highly recommend you read all of those. I am going to fork off a little bit by talking about an emergency contact information template for family and friends.

personal emergency information template

First page of your Emergency Information Template to give to friends and family

Having an emergency contact information template is not a will. You should have a will. And declare a power of attorney. But this is different. This a contact list. Or a phone tree, if you will. Part of this is if you are hospitalized for a period of time. Someone may need to pay your bills, take care of your pets, get into your apartment, things like that. Then the other part is for when you pass away. How many bank accounts do you have? Investments? Landlord’s name? Can someone take care of your pets temporarily until they find a new home?

This is easy to do for anyone at home. The first page can be given to practically anyone (neighbor, babysitter). It doesn’t have any serious revealing information in it. Mainly phone numbers and addresses. The rest of the template has more details but nothing significantly private. You will list the name of your banks and description of the accounts, but not your actual account number. This is not a legal document.


Emergency Details for Family

The template includes worksheet tabs for:

  • Pets
  • Bills
  • Health
  • Files
  • Insurance
  • Banking
  • Investments
  • Credit

You are not giving out account numbers but it is still a lot of information. This should be given to family or very close friends. I gave this out to a cousin who lives near by and a sister who lives a few hours away. These are my closest (emotionally) family members. The ones who will be tasked to taking care of these things at one point. If you are close with your parents, give this to one of them, then a copy to another relative.

Also think of this as a calling tree. Are you giving this to someone who could contact your friends/family if they need to?


Emergency Contacts for Friends

While it is important for my family to have this information since they will need it when I pass. I see my friends a lot more! For my friends, it’s more of health concerns. What if we’re together when I get injured? That type of thing. I sent just the first page, with mainly contact information, to my close friends in the city.

Make sure you know someone who can temporarily take care of your pets. That is one less thing your family will have to deal with when you pass or are hospitalized for a long period of time.

Make sure at least one person near-by has a copy of your keys. And that other people know who that person is. One of my close friends has the spare keys to my apartment. But my family members have never met her and would have no idea how to figure out who has my spare keys. That is why she is specifically mentioned in my contact sheet. You want different points of contact too. Make sure to use friends in different groups, so everyone important to you can be contacted .


Keep Things Updated

This may seem like a lot of work at first, but really it’s just filling in the blanks. You will want to keep this updated. I suggest to review this document during tax time. Since you will have important documents out at that time anyway. Update addresses if anyone has moved. Employment information if that has changed. Bank information, etc.

No one wants to think of tragic circumstances or the inevitable. But your friends & family will be grateful to have such an organized list if anything were to happen to you. Complete the emergency information spreadsheet, share it with the people you care about, and hope that no one will have to use it.


September Monthly Spending in NYC 2014

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September 2014 Expenses - Living in NYC

September 2014 Expenses and Average Monthly Spending in NYC

Using An Emergency Fund for an Emergency

This was an interesting month financially because I’m still recovering from all my emergency spending in August. I put all of my August travel expenses on my credit card and wasn’t exactly sure if I’d be able to cover it all. Thankfully, I did. After completely wiping out my savings accounts, I was able to pay my full credit card balance. After all, that’s what emergency funds are for.

I really did not want to carry any credit card debt. Even though it meant skipping a student loan payment and having less than $500 to my name leftover. My immediate priority is to build that back up. And hope no other emergencies pop-up in the meantime. It is completely fortunate that I was sole beneficiary of my dad’s bank account. It wasn’t much but was certainly more than I was expecting (just short of a thousand). While that certainly is conflicting information from what he told me. I am absolutely grateful nonetheless. That is enough to give me a cushion and a good start to build back up my savings.

September Living Expenses in NYC

Because this month was so tight, I put my old frugal hat back on. I’m always conscious of how I spend my money but this month I had to go back to some old cheap habits. The first thing I did was to really focus on eating at home. I didn’t go overboard only living on lentils and beans. But I did completely avoid buying lunch out save for one day at the end of the month. I also focused a lot on spending time with friends. But invited them over instead of meeting at a bar. This is something I always say I’m going to do and this month I actually did.

This is also a result of being single again. Where I spend waaay less money than when I’m in a relationship. This month I barely drank booze, rarely ate out, and really just enjoyed my time at home. Plus, football Saturdays make for cheap days. I make myself nachos and sit on the couch all day. Oh yeah, sometime I get up and jump when there’s a touchdown. Those have been the best days.

After rent, entertainment spending was a lot this month. Because $200 of that was for a new cell phone. I switched to Republic Wireless. This means my cell phone bill will be $10/mo, for unlimited talk+text, no data. But I had to buy a new phone, a Moto X. I already regret switching because not being able to use shortcodes is killing me. But for $10, you get what you pay for. Other entertainment expenses include two tickets to each Say Anything show when they play in NYC in December. I also did a small shopping trip for a few fall/winter essentials like a light jacket and scarf.


Focusing on Home Cooking & Meal Planning To Save Money

Because of my heavy focus on cooking at home this month, my food spending was considerably less than usual. I spent $200 on groceries and $50 eating out. $50! $50! $50! What! That’s the first time I’ve even made it under $150 in eating out this year! What has really helped keep me motivated on cooking is meal planning via google calendar. And grocery shopping more often (despite still having anxieties over it).

Let’s take a look at my super consistent food spending (groceries + eating out) this year:

  • Jan: $336
  • Feb: $339
  • Mar: $393
  • Apr: $298
  • May: $366
  • Jun: $362
  • Jul: $353
  • Aug: n/a
  • Sep: $260


To keep from going crazy, I treat myself to Bagel Fridays. Which means I grab a bagel+egg+cheese sandwich on my way to work for $5. The rest of the week I eat breakfast at home. Knowing I’m going to have that bagel on Friday keeps me from being lazy the rest of the week.

A big hurdle for me when it comes to cooking is finding recipes. I’ve recently given up on website collections and blogs for lack of variety. But a friend suggested borrowing cook books from the library and that has been a game changer! I’ve already went through two books, writing down recipes that I hadn’t heard of before. It’s much easier than wading through thousands of identical recipes and skewed reviews. It also means I can read niche cook books that I would never buy. For example, focusing on one cuisine.


September Goals & Habits

Over the summer I’ve successfully created some solid habits by using a Daily Habit/Goal Tracking Spreadsheet. I now floss daily, wash dishes before going to bed, call/reach out to a friend/family once a week, and follow a meal plan. Those are regular tasks.

I have long-term goals such as making my friends feel special. And continuing to be financially responsible. And showing others/strangers patience.

Making Friends Feel Special
I have numerous friend’s birthdays in October and I plan to remember each one. I already have birthday cards addressed and/or sent out. And (small) gifts planned. This has been something I’m really focusing on this year. Birthdays are such a personal event. And a perfect opportunity to really make a friend feel special. Something as cheap and little as receiving a birthday card in the mail makes everyone smile!

Continuing Financial Responsibility
I plan to maintain this by making sure I make a student loan payment in September, even if it’s not the double payment I would like. I will also add some funds to my emergency savings.

Showing Strangers Patience
As for patience, I am really making huge strides in not getting angry with people on the subway. It takes a lot of energy and is still hard to sustain all day. But even if I let one subway-rage incident go, I call that an accomplishment. I’m not proud of this, but an incident that happened earlier in the year really made me realize I need to calm down.

I was standing on a very crowded morning subway, when a woman stood up before the subway stopped and tried to push through me, to get to the door, even though we were still moving. Even though I, too, was also getting off at the next stop. Well, I was cranky and frustrated. So I stepped on the back of the woman’s heel. Twice. The second time she turned around, gave me a dirty look, and called me an idiot. I didn’t say I was sorry.

Unfortunately, we were transferring to the same train. By this time, I was already over it and just wanted to continue my commute. Well, she wasn’t. I ran up the stairs next to her, ignoring her, but she reached over and wailed me in the back with her purse. I didn’t react, I kind of deserved it.

But geez! Were two grown women really harassing each other just because it was 7a and the subway was crowded? I felt ridiculous and immature. Instead of that entire embarrassing and stressful scenario I could have done two things. I could have reminded myself that I can’t control other people’s behaviors. And remind myself that I don’t know other people’s challenges. Surely that woman had more stressful things happening in her life than to deal with some cranky person on the subway. I sure do!

Being more aware of my reactions and calming myself down is a lot of work but I am showing progress. This is something I work on every day. Oh, the glamorous life of living in nyc.