• Struggling to eat healthy

    My eating habits have gone to hell in a handbasket lately.

    I don’t know about you, but when things get busy, my diet suffers. You’re short on time, so you end up eating toast and noodles and things that are quick and easy. Or you end up buying food and blowing your budget as well.

    A couple of other things are also contributing factors:

    Social club
    Every Friday afternoon is social club time at the office. My usual MO is to fill up on bread, cheese and salami. But lately, I’ve been gravitating toward the chips (if there’s one thing I have no control around, it is chips of any kind – potato, corn, whatever) and Coke (even though a can is too much for me in one go). The new organisers have also started getting more delicious things like Tim Tams and raspberry slices, further testing my restraint.

    Weekend breakfasts
    T doesn’t usually eat breakfast, and he starts work at 6am on weekdays anyway. Weekends are our time to ease into the day, waking up slowly and then having a leisurely breakfast. Unlike me, he’s not a cereal or toast guy. He’s not even really a pancake kind guy (?!?!). So it’s usually about a full on cooked meal, or lately, a bakery run. So good, but so bad.

    So that’s my foodie confession for the week. At least there’s only one way from here: up. Right?

  • Link love (Powered by honey and lemon)

    Thanks to a systems failure, T was off work for two days this week. Being hourly, that meant no pay. Boo. Overtime brought that up to more or less normal levels, though.

    Meanwhile, I spent two days working from home, having been struck down by the latest bug that’s going around. Yes, in November, just as we’re heading into summer. I kid you not.

    About two weeks ago a couple of coworkers complained of sore throats. I started feeling that scratch late last week, took it easy last weekend, but finally had to admit defeat come Monday. On Tuesday, I was feeling pretty chipper to start with, but by the time I finished breakfast, I decided to give myself another day of working in bed. I always optimistically head back to work a little too soon; not this time.

    You know, I can’t count how many days I’ve wasted this year in that vein – the kind of days where you’re not completely out of action, but you’re not operating at full capacity, either. Anytime anything goes around, I inevitably catch it, and no matter how well I take care of myself, I end up succumbing. More than a  week on, I still haven’t shaken the cold – I’m still hacking up globules of phlegm in the morning.

    I do, however, recognise that I’m lucky to be otherwise healthy and pain-free when many others aren’t. /end whinge.

    To the links!

    Bridget’s unfrugal confessions made me laugh.

    The ever-fabulous Jen at Bullish dispenses some spot-on advice about relationships that are proving a bit of a career roadblock.

    Life of a Salesman (old, but new to me) is a beautiful piece of writing and an example, IMO, of why it’s important to put your financial wellbeing ahead of helping family.

    She Wears A Red Sox Cap reflects on the things she believed in high school (that turned out not to be true).

    Over at Adulting, ways to support your loved ones when they are ill (as in, serious medical issues, not the man flu).

    Cal Newport at Study Hacks argues that knowledge workers are failing on the productivity front.

    A guest poster on the Urban Muse shares a few tips on safely using public wi-fi.

    Death to form letters. Bring on real, human communication. Via Redhead Writing

    Warren and Betsy from Married with Luggage contemplate the cultural differences they’ve noticed on their travels – particularly the American relationship with food.

    Pauline has an excellent guest post up at Budget and the Beach on funding a nomadic lifestyle.

    How to make more money: sell your soul. But seriously, this post was fascinating because pro hustler Susannah Breslin outlines all the ways she’s made money, from copywriting to “online outreach”. Yep.

  • Link love (Powered by sugar cookies and new faces)

    It’s slightly strange being on the opposite side of the fence from everyone in the northern hemisphere. You’ve all just switched your clocks around – we changed ours over a month ago (while we were on our road trip, actually. I wasn’t sure when it was all happening, but when we arrived in Queenstown and walked into the centre, the town clock displayed one time on side and another time on the other, so we figured it was all on from that night forward).

    I have to say, I’m loving the long daylight hours. I went for a post-work run the other day for the first time in months (it’s dark by the time I get home through winter). I’ve blogged before about running being the one thing I do. Getting back to it was painful, but it always is.

    And in another boost to my exercise/fitness routine, I’m finally back in the game. T only recently went back to work – a story for another post – and was off for weeks after returning from our trip. Weekday mornings, therefore, were for long lazy cuddles, rather than stretches and situps. Now, he’s gone by the time I wake up.

    This week’s links:

    Ashley has turned A Story of Debt into an e-book. Hurrah!

    Budget and the Beach guest posts at Making Sense of Cents about how being in a rush costs you money.

    The Joy of Caking has some ideas on making gifts to give.

    Athena writes about what it’s really like working for a nonprofit.

    A sappy but excellent post about blogging by Stephany.

    Musings of an Inappropriate Woman sums up things I didn’t even know I felt about writing in the first person professionally, vs writing in the first person on my blog.

    Finally, thanks to Marissa for hosting the latest carnival of personal finance and including my post on dealing with the rising cost of living.

    Happy weekends!

  • Things I’m thankful for: my health

    Personal finance is a bit of a passion for me. But as we know, wealth isn’t everything. And sometimes health and wealth are more interlinked than we might think. And yes, sometimes luck plays a pretty big part.

    No matter how fit you are, how well you eat – you could get hit by a drunk driver. You could get cancer. You could get Parkinson’s. You could develop a chronic condition – pain, depression, something else. And no matter how well-insured you are, that’s going to have a serious impact on your finances and all other aspects of life – in some cases, for as long as you live.

    So, while I may be halfway to blind … suffer ridiculously heavy periods … chronic hayfever … I appreciate what I have. Full use of my (weak) limbs. All my senses. I can walk, I can run, I can jump. I have no health conditions that have serious negative effects on my life. I’ve never even broken a bone. Not everybody is so lucky.

    What are you thankful for today?

  • Finding your healthy balance

    I don’t drink coffee, and I don’t smoke. I rarely drink alcohol, energy drinks or fizzy drinks; I don’t eat lollies, and I’m not big on meat.

    Fresh vegetables are important components of a...

    Image via Wikipedia

    That said, I’m a fiend for sugar in most other forms (baked goods and anything chocolate), carbs and many fried foods. And I’ll confess to a weakness for Yum Yum shrimp-flavoured noodles.

    I walk to and from work every day (20 minutes each way). I usually run twice a week (anywhere from one to 15km at a time) although this month I’ve been replacing one run with Zumba – one of my good friends is teaching free classes at Rocket Park in Mt Albert every Wednesday from 6.30pm if you’re keen.

    As with most things in life, I could do more. I could exercise every day. I could give up meat entirely or go vegan. (In theory. I love cheese and yoghurt too much to seriously contemplate the latter.)

    But I’m happy.

    What’s right for me and my body may not be right for anybody else.

    I’m one of those hateful thin people who can eat whatever she wants, so weight loss has never been a tangible motivator for me. (Apparently it’s okay for people to yell backhanded compliments at me while I’m out pounding the pavement.) I’m still yet to achieve my goal of giving blood because of my weight. So it’s got to be all me, all internally driven.

    I run to tone up and because somewhere along the way, I realised that between the panting, air-sucking and burning in my lungs, sweating it out physically felt good. I’m not saying it’s easy. But it’s worth it.

    Maybe I’m not a serious runner in some eyes because I can wear $20 Warehouse trainers and get away with it, and sometimes I only head out for a 15-minute jog. I’m okay with that – with admitting I really have no motivation to get my sweat on more often.

    I eat dessert almost every single day. And I usually have home-baked something or other for a snack at work. I still, more often than not, fail to make 5+ a day. I don’t like very many fruits and I prefer my vegetables cooked – and I need my carbs in order to keep my ridiculously fast metabolism up so I’m not scrounging around for more food every half hour. I’ve learned to like greens about 1000 times more than I did two years ago, but plant matter alone inevitably leaves me feeling hollow before long.

    Right now, this is my life. This is what my balance looks like.

  • Food diary: Week 4 (or, I’m a convert!)

    A picture taken, of A Green Salad.

    Image via Wikipedia

    Wow, that went fast! I can’t believe it’s over.

    This month I set out to challenge myself to eat better. Namely, eating fruit and/or vegetables every single day (previous weeks’ diaries here). I love – and eat a lot of – potatoes, and that was one of the parameters. Potatoes only counted for a half mark. I missed three days in previous weeks, and despite two days away plus T’s birthday this week, only missed one in this last week. (Well, half, considering how many servings of ‘taters I consumed. Still.)

    September 22
    Breakfast: Cereal and milk
    Lunch: Banana, egg sandwich, choc chip cookie
    Dinner: Mild bhuja mix, bacon and veggie quiche, banana fritter and ice cream, banana/choc chip muffin

    September 23

    Breakfast: Cereal and milk
    Lunch: Banana/choc chip muffin, Japanese donburi (crispy chicken and salad)
    Dinner: Udon noodles with crispy pork, bacon, onions and cauliflower

    September 24
    Breakfast: Two pieces of white toast with Vegemite
    Lunch: Banana, egg sandwich, chocolate chip cookie
    Dinner: A bit of quiche, a bit of left over noodle stirfry, a bit of pizza

    September 25 (Weekend out of town)
    Breakfast: Cereal and milk
    Lunch: Half of a lamb kofta at farmer’s market, piece of apple cake, scallops and green salad
    Snacks: Bhuja mix, bread and jam, instant noodles
    Dinner: Angus steak and salad

    September 26 (Weekend out of town)
    Breakfast: Handful of crackers, nachos
    Lunch: Spring roll, hot chips, some Asian noodles with cabbage, carrots, mixed meat
    Dinner: Pork roast with kumara/potato mash, red cabbage and watercress salad, cookie and ice cream

    September 27
    Breakfast: Cereal and milk
    Lunch: Red cabbage and watercress salad, two minute noodles
    Snacks: Cookie and ice cream, bread and dips – hummus, babaganoush
    Dinner: Leftover roast, apple pie and ice cream

    September 28
    Breakfast: Cereal and milk
    Lunch: Custard slice, Wendy’s chips
    Dinner: Steamed mussels, chips, sausage and mash
    Snacks: Bread and dips, cheese and crackers, apple pie and ice cream

    Errr, so, yeah, a rather snacky week. And quite possibly my unhealthiest week to date. Yet, I feel GREAT – probably mostly down to the amazing weather, Daylight Savings, and my upping the ante exercise-wise. (Two runs this week! And with the longer days, I can totally see myself going almost every day.) You’ve probably noticed that sometimes there’s a lot of repetition going on. What can I say? I try to cook in batches.

    I am officially converted

    I still have a sweet tooth. Sometimes there’s nothing better than a cheeseburger or a pie or even a pile of golden hash browns.

    BUT – my body wants to eat healthier. Not only do I feel guilty about eating poorly, I sometimes crave greens. Once, I would have cringed at the thought of a veggie stirfry for lunch. Now as I get more confident in the kitchen, my lunches are getting more varied and – from time to time – well-balanced, even?. The downside is it takes time, of course. Cooked lunches take way more work than sandwiches. But I’m not a big sandwich fan anyhow.

    Tastes change as you get older. I’m still not a huge fruit lover (I’ll eat berries, bananas, apples and citrus, but I won’t go near any of the tropicals like peaches and apricots) but until recently, I never used to eat spinach, or eggplant, or carrots.

    And perhaps most amazing of all is the fact that I am converted to lighter dinners. There are still plenty of days I practically crawl in the door after work, ravenous and impatient, and practically inhale whatever food is easiest to prepare. But a little control goes a long way. I feel so much better when I’m not groaning from fullness, so much more alive and energised. And running on a full stomach is, well, just not a good idea.

  • Insurance. It’s a gamble

    Day 63/365: Stethoscope

    Image by wenzday01 via Flickr

    In my recent rant about dental charges, someone suggested looking into insurance to save on costs. To which I scoffed (mentally) But since my EHIC card has expired I suppose it is the perfect time to look into this. porcelain veneers are the gold standard of dentistry . they’re a skinny porcelain shell that matches over the front of the tooth. they’re manufactured by a master ceramist and inbuilt layers to offer that lovely lifelike appearance.  The porcelain veneers are the foremost versatile and therefore the strongest veneer restoration available. These are often wont to correct any alignment or discoloration. Composite resin veneers are the gold standard of dentistry . Porcelain veneers are the very best quality and most durable sort of veneer. Porcelain veneers are the foremost versatile and therefore the strongest veneer restoration available. These are often wont to correct any alignment or discoloration. they’re going to not stain or change color. they will mimic the translucency of natural enamel. A smile restoration with porcelain veneer are often accomplished in just two visits. These are made directly on the tooth. they will be beautiful and may last a few years . they’re not as durable as porcelain veneers or as stain resistant, but they will be a reasonable cosmetic option. Often we use this system when there’s only one tooth that’s chipped, discolored or broken. Composite resin veneers can oftentimes be wont to correct smaller alignment problems. they’re perfect for filling small gaps. they’re a way less costly alternative to porcelain but may have to get replaced every 5-7 years, because the material isn’t as strong. A smile restoration with composite veneers are often wiped out just one visit.

    A Dental veneer may also be known as a porcelain veneer or a porcelain laminate is a custom-made shell that is usually bonded to the front of the tooth surface to improve the appearance. It is usually made of thin porcelain or polymers and covers the tooth in order to change the colour, size or shape of the tooth. In addition to changing the appearance, it can also be used to protect the surface of the tooth that has been damaged.

    A porcelain dental veneer is more stain-resistant, and is also much closer in appearance to natural teeth than those made from resins, which are normally thinner and require less work before placement. Your dentist will help you to determine the best type of veneer for your situation.

    And then a friend of mine, who coincidentally happens to be a colleague as well, randomly mentioned something about how many deductions came out of my pay before he even saw it. One of those deductions was for health insurance. A little bell went off in my head. Southern Cross! We have a workplace scheme going with them. The past decade, in particular, has recorded great strides in dental technology for your comfort. And your favorite Marlton periodontist hasn’t been slacking either. This is why The Dental Center of Marlton has invested in state-of-the-art tools to make sure all periodontal procedures are as painless and stress-free as possible. The past decade, in раrtісulаr, hаѕ rесоrdеd great ѕtrіdеѕ іn dеntаl technology fоr уоur соmfоrt. And уоur fаvоrіtе Marlton periodontist hаѕn’t been ѕlасkіng either. This is whу Thе Dental Center of Marlton has invested іn ѕtаtе-оf-thе-аrt tооlѕ tо mаkе ѕurе аll periodontal рrосеdurеѕ are аѕ раіnlеѕѕ аnd stress-free as роѕѕіblе. At West Cobb Dentistry we provide several different services in cosmetic dentistry.

    Just my luck, a consultant happened to come into the office a week later. Here are my options as a young, healthy human being:

    Wellbeing One:
    Cover for the catastrophic, should it occur, at $25.24 a month. Double that ($50.48) to add T onto the plan.
    Odds are highly stacked against me needing surgery anytime soon, so I won’t go into all the details of coverage. I’ll just say that it covers up to $75,000 per operation. And pre-consults and post-op care. (I think it also covers wisdom teeth removal, although probably not the whole cost). Goodness, and sterilisation, gastric banding, breast reduction and overseas treatment.

    Thoughts:  Sounds like good value to insure me against the future. But I’m inclined to postpone signing on for a while yet. But a young, foolhardy person would say that, wouldn’t they?

    Wellbeing Two, plus dental and vision:
    Looks virtually identical to Wellbeing One at first glance, with the addition of $750 for psychiatric consults.
    Add on vision and dental, and that’s $60.77 a month or ($121.54 to cover T as well). That’s up to $500 for dental a year, $100 for hygienist – whatever that is – $50 for eye tests, $400 for glasses or contacts, and $200 for audiology.

    Thoughts: I could definitely make full use of the vision coverage, but I’m pretty sure my employer already has a vision subsidy in place. (I used it a couple of years ago and assume it hasn’t been canned.) I also haven’t worn contacts in a while, but I buy them MUCH cheaper online than through brick-and-mortar stores.
    I seem to recall being quoted around $300 for a cleaning and filling, and $1500 for T (he needed more work, obviously). I don’t see much point in paying $729 for us a year to get $500 worth of dental work, although again, we are getting coverage should either of us need non-emergency surgery.

    Right now, I’m leaning toward postponing the whole idea, and simply paying our dental costs out of pocket.

    Anyone have any thoughts on the matter? I know health insurance in the US is a different beast altogether, but all input is appreciated.

  • On money, teeth and sticker shock

    Dentist - Faroe Islands

    Image via Wikipedia

    For someone who hates paying full price for anything, I get tremendous coupon guilt.

    Take, for example, the free dentist checkups T and I got this month. (Seriously, if you need to visit the dentist because you haven’t been in years and aren’t up for paying $100 or whatever the regular fee is, check out ezycoupons.co.nz. We went to Royal Oak Dental, which is close to us, but there are many others offering free appointments for new patients.) It felt just bizarre handing over a printout and then walking out again. I almost feel like I’m stealing, or cheating the dentist out of a professional fee.

    Then again, given the fact that I was quoted over $300 for one filling and a cleaning, and T $1500 for three fillings, a cleaning and a wisdom tooth removal, maybe not.

    I’ve always had fairly healthy teeth, and T had major dental work in the army, but she seemed surprised at the fact that our mouths were in a good state, given it had been at least four years since either of us got checked.

    Seriously, this would be my first filling, and it’s not just reluctance to part with the money that is driving me to put this off for as long as I can. I’m going to see if I can get a better deal on a cleaning elsewhere – maybe at the AUT oral health clinic, though the gas alone would probably nix any savings.

    As for the boy – ???!!!!!!!

    I also didn’t really like the dentist who saw us. If I’m going to let someone poke around in my mouth, I’d prefer it to be someone who was a bit warmer towards me. (Granted, nobody likes working a Saturday morning, but oy, I work both weekend days, every week. Someone always has it worse). And of course, being a dentist, she just had to ask me if I’d ever considered braces. Right?

    Look, I’ve had braces. I had the worst buckteeth you could ever imagine as a child. They got them a hell of a lot straighter, but they’re still not completely even. It probably doesn’t help that my teeth are all kind of small, for some reason, and different sized…I think of them as childish rather than grownup teeth.

    But I decided not to go ahead with another round once I got the first set off. I was sick of wearing them, and I felt bad about how much they were costing my parents. Likewise, that was a big part of why I told them I didn’t want to go to One Day School when I was younger – I worked out how many hours my dad would have to work to pay for it, and felt so bad about the cost.

    ANYWAY. While I am often self-conscious about my teeth, I’m happy enough with them. I have about a billion other things I’d rather spend hypothetical thousands of dollars on, and certainly don’t want to be 20-something and still wearing braces. I just don’t like to be called on it.

    Ummm…so anyone have tips on saving at the dentist? How much should you pay for braces?

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  • Emergency room visit

    As promised, continued on from the last post….

    I’ve never been to A & E before. It certainly was an experience. We saw a guy who cut his hand open, a girl in a fluorescent green dressing gown with a HOOD (how awesome is that?) who’d messed up her back, some guy who swallowed his dentures (a young guy, not an old man either) and a pimp and two prostitutes.

    We were there for, oh I don’t know, two or three hours? The whole night is blurry to me. I don’t know what time we got there, but I’d say sometimes after midnight and got home around 4. I had about 4 hours sleep and then went off to cover the opening of the new local motorway link to try wrangle a story out of it.

    I also got approximately four hours sleep last night, having been to a 21st, and am operating on empty.

    Anyway. The last time that those hoodlums came back around, BF went round the back to get the LL (who was very territorial and keen to go give them the beatdown, actually). Did I mention how rainy, dark and miserable it was? It was so cold, SO damp and BF skidded across the wet grass and up onto the concrete steps, slicing his foot up. After a little cleaning up and bandaging it, we reached the conclusion that we needed to go to A & E and get stitches.

    Yes, sadly, my first thought was to worry about what it would cost. But health is numero uno, and I figured if it cost more than what we had, well we would just have to work something out. BF thought we should wait until morning when it would cost less, but a) we would have no way to get there and b) the lines would probably be heinous during the day. So our awesome friends rallied round and drove us first to St Lukes White Cross – which was closed – then on to the hospital.

    We waited. And waited. I read crap magazines – an HR magazine, believe it or not, a techy magazine and a Home and Garden. We watched Fox News on Prime. And infomercials for Barefoot Science, the ridiculous ab workout thing that uses gravity to spin you round this circular thing, and the Versa Cutter. It was truly mind numbing.

    BF was seen by a consultant right away, but it was another few hours before a doctor actually called him up. He got some painkillers and a local anesthetic (which they had to get an orthopedist in to administer), and crutches. Crutches which cost $45, but we get back $35 upon returning them.

    So it was a VERRRRRRY long night. However, whether it’s because we were at the hospital rather than a suburban A&E, or what, it didn’t cost us anything out of pocket – bar the crutches. As soon as I walked in I saw the sign informing us that visits were free for NZ citizens and residents.

    That was, indeed, the best part of the night. Well, behind the surprise visit from our friends and all their help.

  • Finally got around to going to DTR to claim my $60 refund.

    Wonder how long before it gets processed? I plan to use it to get another three months’ of contact lenses.

    Now hopefully I’ll never have to set foot in there again!

    I feel like I haven’t had any control of our money the last few weeks. I’ve been staving off the flu and some sort of stomach issue, and taking various medications has simply left me doped up and still unwell, and with BF not bringing any money in, it’s all very disorganised.

    We got a letter form WINZ informing us that as he did not “respond to a request for information, your application has been declined”.

    The letter was dated April 9. Over a week ago. And just three days after he actually went in for his first appointment.

    And, I might add, we never received any “request for information”.

    So now it’s over to calling the 0800 line and trying to get through to a human operator to find out what the HELL is going on.

    BF hates waiting on phone lines, especially when he’s 15th in line or whatever. Social services are just so overloaded at the moment and they seriously are not coping at all.

    I’m just trying to make his EF last as long as possible, because it’s not looking healthy.

    And now we have to deal with having no hot water. Turns out it was the cylinder, and not anything to do with the LL’s family staying. Now they’re gone, nothing’s changed – it’s just a coincidence our water went around the time they arrived. Hopefully that also explains why our electricity bills are so high! It’s summer for chrissake, and we’re using double what we did a year ago.

    Hope his insurance get it sorted super fast. He’s been made redundant too. And the weather’s getting colder, and my cold isn’t going away…cold showers don’t help any. Up until last week I was managing to squeeze in roughly room temperature showers – ie, the water was MARGINALLY warmer than my body – but those golden times are OVER!

    I just finished washing my hair for the first time in three days. I was forced to wash it in the basin (something I find damn near impossible, hidesouly uncomfortable, and messy), and this required me to boil two jugs of water.

    Primitive, no?