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This is a guest post on Mr. Money Mustache’s blog by the founder of Get Rich Slowly, J.D. Roth. It is definitely worth a read!

Urban foraging: my first foray

I had my first urban foraging experience yesterday! I was biking along the hudson river and came across a mulberry tree that was dropping berries onto the bike path.

There are lots of mulberry trees in NYC but most are way too big to reach the branches. So I parked my bike under the tree and went to town (Luckily I had a purple fabric grocery bag with me, because mulberries stain like CRAZY). 

Two separate park employees walked by and both said it was totally fine to pick the berries. One even commented, “You are one of the very few people who know what’s up!” as he walked by.  

I picked a pound of mulberries (I weighed them on my food scale when I got home) and they are currently macerating in the fridge with 4 cups of sugar and 1.5 pounds of chopped rhubarb. I just need to buy a lemon to juice and then I’m going to make Mulberry-Rhubarb Jam!!  I’ll post a photo of the jam in jars once it’s done, along with an (untested, therefore make-at-your-own-risk) recipe.

Posted by K

5 reasons I love living small

My husband, our two dogs, and I share a 525 square foot studio apartment in Manhattan.  People who don’t live in NYC are often shocked by this fact, though it’s common practice in high density urban environments. 

Here are 5 reasons why I LOVE living in a small apartment:

1) Less time spent cleaning!  Since our apartment is so small, I can get it spotlessly clean in about 2 hours.  I used to hate vacuuming when I had a big clunky canister vac, but then we got the Dyson Animal cordless vacuum, and now I vacuum every other day-and it takes under 10 minutes to do the entire apartment. 

2) Less stuff = less worry.  We don’t have a ton of room, so we have to think about what we bring into the apartment.  We try to have a one-in-one-out rule, which means that if we buy something new, something old has to go.  This means that we aren’t just adding more and more stuff to our apartment, which helps to keep the apartment uncrowded.  It also means we have less stuff than the average American, and less to worry about because of it (for example: instead of a giant, expensive TV that we’d worry about insuring &/or breaking, we use our laptops for entertainment).

3) I always know what my dogs are up to.  We are lucky and our dogs are very well-behaved.  But our male chihuahua, unfortunately, did not come to us housebroken.  Since we are together in a one-room apartment, it was easy for me to keep an eye on him while we were potty training him.

4) When we’re home, we’re together.  I often joke that even if we had another room, we’d be in the same room all the time.  My husband and I like spending time together, so when we’re at home, we’re usually doing something together.  And even if we’re mad at each other for some reason, we have to talk it out and get over it quickly, because being angry in a tiny apartment is not good for anyone’s stress level!

5) We save a TON of money.  

-The maintenance on our apartment (which includes doormen/heat/air conditioning/natural gas/electricity) is ~$850/month.  A one-bedroom apartment in our building would have a maintenance of ~$1200/month.  I bought our apartment over 10 years ago, and paid off the mortgage a few years ago, so we no longer have to deal with that, but if we were to buy a new apartment in our building, a one-bedroom would be 1.5 times the current value of our studio.  

-Since it’s so easy to clean our place, we don’t have to pay a housekeeper to clean for us.  

-Since we don’t have a lot of space, we have to really think about purchases before we make them.  This means that we almost never make impulse purchases-which saves us a ton of cold, hard cash.  

Mystery Shopping Update

When I first started mystery shopping, I took every job I could find, so I could gain experience and figure out what I liked and what I didn’t like.   It takes a lot of effort to stay organized, but as I’ve gained experience, I’ve figured out a system that works for me.  Now that I have found the shops that I enjoy, I plan to focus on those, and let the ones I don’t enjoy go to other mystery shoppers. 

At this point, I am signed up with approximately 85 mystery shopping companies.  Some of them have a ton of shops in my area, some have none, and most have a few.  Some of the shops I took last month are “Never again” shops for me, either because I lost money doing them (i.e. the required purchase was less than the reimbursement amount), or because I felt uncomfortable performing the required scenario.  Some of the shops are once-in-a-lifetime kinds of shops for me-I’ve been able to take my husband out to VERY nice dinners at some of the city’s top restaurants-completely reimbursed!

Another huge benefit of mystery shopping is that I am able to charge a LOT of $$ to my credit cards (WHICH I ALWAYS PAY OFF IN FULL EVERY MONTH), which allows me to earn lots of points or cash back.  I have the Chase Freedom card, which for April, May, and June offers 5% back on all dining charges, up to $1500 worth of charges.  Since I had some really expensive mystery shop dinners, and many casual dining mystery shops, I’m close to hitting $1500 in charges during the quarter, which means I’ll be getting close to $75 back from my credit card.  

There is usually a 6 to 8 week delay from the date of the charge to reimbursement from the mystery shopping company, so I always make sure I have a cash cushion so I can pay off my credit card and wait for the reimbursement.  The only way rewards credit cards make sense is if you NEVER carry a balance. 

posted by K

Free Tomatoes!  I started this plant from a seed I saved from a tomato from our CSA last year.  I started it in some leftover potting soil, and now it’s bearing fruit!

Free Tomatoes! I started this plant from a seed I saved from a tomato from our CSA last year. I started it in some leftover potting soil, and now it’s bearing fruit!

This is an interesting article for young people starting out on their careers, and for older, more established people as well.  I have not read the book that the article talks about, but the book is free for today, so it may be worth downloading! 

Posted by K

Superfall Pumpkin Smoothie (vegan and gluten free)

This smoothie rocks.. It’s yummy, it’s healthy and even if you use the expensive organic BPA free canned pumpkin, you can make 3 servings for the price of 1 pumpkin spice latte. Superfall smoothie FTW!

1 15 oz can pumpkin (try to buy the kind with BPA free lining-they sell it at Whole Foods. Or roast your own squash & use that!)
4 medium size apples, cored but not peeled
15 oz non-dairy milk (just fill the empty pumpkin can with milk to measure)
Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and ground cloves, to taste

Put everything in your Vitamix and go to town! Makes 3 servings of autumny deliciousness.

posted by K

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