Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Enjoying Life [On A Budget]

Being the fairly frugal couple that we are, I thought it would be fun to share some tips from the Zook Nook on how to save money and still enjoy life. Some of these tips are aimed at newlywed couples, but not all of them. I don't claim that any of this is groundbreaking advice, but you may learn something new!

1. Chipotle: To make your money stretch further, split a burrito bowl between two people. To do this, ask for extra rice (you must ask very sweetly and maybe even wink - my husband does this well) and they will give you bigger portions of all the toppings, making the bowl larger. You can even ask for a tortilla on the side, and then have one person scoop half the toppings into the tortilla. This gives you the feeling that you are eating a normal burrito, except it's a much healthier portion size for each person. Plus, it's delicious!

1B. Around Christmas and Graduation time (in May), Chipotle offers a deal where you can buy a $30 gift card and get a free burrito at your next visit. We take great advantage of this and buy one gift card every time we go during this time period. That way, we get a free burrito bowl each visit, AND we are stocked up with Chipotle gift cards for the rest of the year. We rarely pay actual money for Chipotle.

2. Netflix: This may seem obvious to most of you, but using Netflix Instant instead of paying for cable TV saves a TON of money! Since getting married, we have never had cable, and yet we watch TV all the time. We pay $7.99/month for all the TV we could possibly need. Plus, we have been exposed to shows like 30 Rock, Parks & Recreation, Friday Night Lights, Jericho, Lie To Me, The West Wing, Bones, etc.

2B. For free movies, we use the...library! Again, this may seem obvious, but you can order pretty much any movie from your local public library, and it will eventually get in your DVD player for FREE. Does this sound familiar to anyone *cough*Netflix*cough*? Boom, save $7.99 additional dollars each month.

3. 2-in-1 Shampoo: I don't think I need to expand much on this topic. Buying 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner saves money, time, and space in your shower. Garnier Fructis has a good 2-in-1 product.

4. Generic Products: Consider buying off-brand products. Of course, you can always do this with food at the grocery store, but in my opinion, there can be a significant drop in food quality with certain brands. What I am referring to here is generic brands of medications, vitamins, paper goods (but not toilet paper), hand soap, etc.
*Did you know that Equate brand "Tums" are WAY better than any other brand?

5. Noisetrade: Free music, people! Subscribe to their weekly emails, and you will enjoy the benefits of getting free downloads of new bands, old bands you didn't know, and bands you already love. I found most of my current favorite bands on Noisetrade. Seriously, who needs iTunes when you have Noisetrade and YouTube?

6. Thrift Shops: Again, super obvious, but if you look hard enough, you can find art, picture frames, and cool decorations for your house at thrift shops. I will have to add Craigslist to this category as well. If you don't know about that (are there people who don't?), you are missing out.

Speaking of thrift shops, let's take a break for this gem. Don't worry, it's the clean one.

7. Public Transportation: I know your options for this may vary based on where you live, but most cities have a decent public transit network that may reach farther than you think. All you suburbanites out there, you should look into your nearest bus/train stop at home and work and check to see if the route saves you any time/money. I took the bus to work last winter, and it made me a much happier person!

Okay, I don't want this list to get obnoxiously long so I think I will stop here. Maybe you learned something, and maybe you just got to jam out to "Thrift Shop." Either way, thanks for reading my blog! :)


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Faint Not

I’m scared to write this down, because I don’t have it all worked out yet. I apologize in advance if this is hard to follow or seems scattered. My hope is that writing a blog will provide an outlet for all of my jumbled thoughts and help me figure out what’s going on in my head.
Let me try to start from the beginning…
For the past few weeks, I’ve been feeling pretty depressed. I think I can contribute some of that to Seasonal Affective Disorder combined with Minnesota winter, as it is definitely that time of year again. However, the thoughts I’m having aren’t very consistent with past winters, and I am fairly convinced there is more going on than SAD-ness (oh, puns!).
As I mentioned before, work is very slow right now (but apparently not for anyone else in the office), and I don’t have a lot of extra-curricular activities going on – although I did start tutoring at the library one night a week. We are still looking for a new church, and we don’t have a lot of consistent Christian community. Oh, and I haven’t heard about grad school yet either. I say all of this just to make some excuses and offer possible causes for the feelings I will now reveal.
I feel like my life is purposeless. I feel like I am wasting these precious, carefree years of my mid 20’s planning for my future and acting too much like an adult. What is the rush? I don’t own a house, don’t have kids, and have very few responsibilities. Here’s what I’m thinking: I want to move to another country. Preferably in South or Central America. I want to take a break from offices, TV, happy hour, driving, makeup, winter, gossip, senseless worrying, shopping, Facebook, 401K, Netflix…
Some of you may be thinking, “Heather, didn’t you say this same thing 4 years ago?” Yes, I did. But at that time, I was looking for something else. I really just wanted experience living in South America so I could learn Spanish fluently. And sure, that would definitely be a bonus, but now I feel the need for so much more. This may sound cliché, but I want to serve God and his people wholeheartedly, and I think that means giving up some of the comforts I have now and living alongside people in need. I realize it’s possible to do that without even leaving my city, and that’s always a possibility, but I also feel like getting away from the familiar may be a necessary part of serving.
I also realize there is a whole other person in my life that needs to be on board before we pack up and move to Chile (Costa Rica? Mexico? Paraguay?), and there are jobs, school, finances, relationships, and many other factors that would need to be considered. For now, I think I could be content to plan a short-term trip, and that planning is already in the works. But, if I’m not going to move to South America, then what AM I going to do to satisfy this discontent?
PS: I LOVE the lyrics to this song by Jenny & Tyler.

Friday, February 1, 2013

New Music Friday

I just found a new band (founded in 2009, so I guess they're not technically "new") and felt like sharing this video with you. I don't really have much else to say, except HAPPY FRIDAY!

The band is The Head and the Heart and the song is "Lost In My Mind."