Throw Money at the Problem

Right now I’m working an auto show in Detroit.

The day I left to fly to Detroit, I woke up later than I’d wanted to. I’d packed the night before and was mildly exhausted.  After I’d already walked 3 blocks away from my apartment towards the bus to the airport, dragging two heavy suitcases behind me, I realized I’d forgotten my Global Entry card and had to drag the suitcases all the way back home. I live a 15 minute bus ride away from LaGuardia airport, but because of all my delays, I ended up just getting an Uber (these are cabs called from an app, in case you’re unfamiliar with Uber in your city).

I felt sort of guilty about spending $17 on an Uber cab instead of $2.50 on a bus, but the cost of being late and missing the flight would have been much much more. The time, stress, and possibly money spent on a new flight would have been much costlier than just throwing money at the lateness problem.

A much as I love saving money, I’m a big fan of picking your battles and using money when you need to. We have money in order to make our lives easier. Sometimes you need to take that hard earned money and throw it at problems that’ll quickly go away when hit.

Don’t get me wrong- I’m not at all rich…not yet 🙂 If you read some of my other articles you’d know I’m still paying off my student loan debt and definitely am not swimming in money. But a little bit of saving goes a long way toward solving some small problems. Now that I’m thirty, I’ve had a few good years of not desperately eating ramen noodles every day…and I have a slight bit more money to put into my ‘throw money at the problem’ account…which is basically my normal checking account.

Jane touched upon this in her post How Much of Your Life Do You Outsource? She was mentioning how much she hated doing laundry at a laundromat when she had to carry heavy bags. Before I lived in a building that had washers and dryers, I used to pay extra for drop off service at the laundromat a few blocks away. I’d just have the people who worked there clean and fold it. I hated having to go back and forth multiple times to the laundromat…I just wanted to drop my laundry off and pick it up all finished. I used this laundry drop off solution for years- it was worth it to me. I saved money elsewhere…like on taking buses to and from airports mostly. I spent my extra money on laundry problems. And I had no regrets.

Recently, I used another paid service Jane mentioned in her same post– this service is a food delivery program called Blue Apron. Blue Apron basically delivers 3 meals a week to your doorstep- only it doesn’t deliver them cooked and put together. The meals are in the form of ingredients and recipes and you cook the meals yourself. Blue Apron is pretty brilliant in a lot of ways. For one, it basically teaches you how to cook. Secondly, the time consuming act of buying ingredients is out of the picture. Thirdly, you know exactly what’s going into your (fancy) meals.

photo 2 (4)I actually managed to finagle a week of Blue Apron for free. A friend of mine ordered it for herself and loved it. She invited me to try a week of it as a free trial (a special promotion Blue Apron offers which I recommend you look around for 🙂 ). Everyone I know who’s tried Blue Apron loves it. In fact, all the married and engaged couples I met at a BBQ I mentioned in my How To Be A Third Wheel  post were buzzing about using it to cook for their significant others instead of ordering out all the time.

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I enjoyed the 3 meals I received from Blue Apron, and was super impressed with their beautiful delivery and presentation. I learned how to cook three new dishes, and the ingredients were delicious and fresh. However, the cost of 3 meals a week (with 2 servings each) would be $60 a week, which was a bit steep for my tastes. So I canceled the service before I had to pay for it. For me, cooking dinner every night is a problem I’d rather solve with time than money. I know I can cook 3 dinners a week for way less money than $60 and didn’t need to pay for Blue Apron’s services. Still, I think Blue Apron is a great and worthwhile service for certain types of people, the same way laundromat drop off was a great and worthwhile service for me.

Sometimes you just need to throw money at a problem….and sometimes you don’t. Know yourself and your budget. Then choose wisely which one it’ll be.

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My Roommate Talks to Strangers on Subways

When we’re both in our kitchen together, my roommate and I tend to have very in depth, funny, and deep conversations. I’m extremely lucky to have her as a roommate- we were strangers who met through Craigslist and we get along extremely well.

We’ve known each other only three months but we talk about everything from meditation to relationships to street harassment to retirement accounts with an equal degree of ease. Our roommate relationship can only be described as a rare personality click.

The other day she described the conversations she has with random people on the subway. I was surprised to hear this- she doesn’t seem like the sort to have impromptu conversations with strangers on public transportation. She’s a fairly quiet and unassuming girl, tiny and thoughtful- a 29 year old english professor and writer who listens to calming music and chills in her room a lot.

She thinks that people probably open up to her because she enjoys hearing their stories; they may sense her friendliness and feel a green light. It’s true that she always gets me opening up, so I guess her energy works with subway people as well.

I recounted to her that as of late I rarely talk to anyone in transit- even though I travel all the time. I used to have lots of conversations with new people at airports and on planes- in fact that’s actually how I met my ex-boyfriend. But lately I’d been using the old ‘kindle and headphone’ trick to stop people from talking to me before they started. My job involves a ton of talking and lately the last thing I wanted to do on a flight to or from work was to talk.

Sometimes while I'm traveling I'll look up from my Kindle to take a funny photo of fellow travelers, but I've rarely talked to them anymore.

Sometimes while I’m traveling I’ll look up from my Kindle to take a funny photo of fellow travelers, but I’ve rarely talked to them anymore.

But after my roommate told me her subway stories, I began to crave conversation with fellow travelers again. “Just be open,” she said. “They’ll sense it.”

And they did.

Once I felt open to listening again, people began to talk. It was like magic. I turned off my kindle and took off my headphones and I met the LA shuttle driver I talked about in my last post. And on my flight from LA, I met an accountant who used to sell time shares and lived in Cancun. There was a young mom chaperoning a crew of girl scouts on the way back from Dallas, various folk from New Orleans, Vancouver, and Hungary at a recent hostel, and a really cool travel blogger named Jo (Indiana Jo) who apparently travels 9 months out of the year and lived in a cave for awhile.

Both being an open listener and a closed privacy-craver have their pros and cons. I heartily enjoy hearing stories and learning about other places and lives, and travel conversation is a great way to do so. But I haven’t yet talked to strangers on the subway…maybe I’m just not open to that yet.

Sometimes, though, it’s nice to just sit quietly while in transit. Like now, I’m actually sitting and writing this on a bus to Philadelphia, while the man next to me sleeps soundly against the window. We never said hi to each other. By the time I got to my seat he was already tuned out and closed off with his kindle and his headphones.

I understood.

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