11 January 2011

Tea and Science

I have a better post to do in the next couple of days about our financial journey and our goals for this year, but for now, a little post to hold you over.

First, I love tea... its history, drinking it, the many ceremonies involving tea... it's all very fascinating to me.  I've come to realize that tea, like wine, can be very intimidating to the uninitiated.  The great thing about both drinks is that you don't have to know a lot about them to enjoy them or to find something you like.  However, "preparing" wine is mostly a matter of having white or red wine glasses and knowing to serve white wine chilled (and having a corkscrew on hand, but that's also a story for a different day).  Tea is a little more complicated, but still not hard.

Instead of going through it myself, January happens to be Hot Tea Month, which has yielded some good basic tea preparation info in the last couple of weeks.  Specifically, this blog entry from The Tea Maestro, which details six simple steps to better tea.  It's mostly a matter of clean water at the right temperature, but that article breaks it down in a very user-friendly way.

In a not completely related area of interest, I thought this Sense About Science review was particularly funny. It talks about celebrity science claims (diets, "resonating" bracelets, detoxing, etc.) and then talks to expert scientists.  The result?  That you shouldn't listen to celebrities.  About anything, really, but especially about science topics.

04 January 2011

Financial Plans

Happy New Year, everyone!

As I wrote previously, my husband and I are using this month to do a financial reboot and update.  We used our (very long) trip back from New York City to start a list of things to accomplish this month.  I'll write about our particular financial journey soon, but for now, here are some things we're doing this month:

  • Reducing expenses:
    • Swapping from satellite TV w/ DVR to Hulu and Netflix (a great point on opportunity cost)
    • Tighter control on when/where we eat out; we're also planning to invite more people over for dinner... more fun, less cost
    • Car insurance comparison (Seriously, who is still overpaying by $500/yr as the commercials claim?  Our rates are already pretty low, but it pays to check around once in awhile)
  • Simplifications:
    • Closing some unused accounts
    • Bringing our retirement accounts up to date (I'm particularly guilty of the "orphaned 401(k)" syndrome)
    • Creating electronic financial records and diminishing our paper collection
    • Donating boxes of Stuff (finally!)
  • Debt Reduction:
    • Changing our student loan pay-off scheme to reflect two changes: one income and in-school deferment
    • Potential change to how we pay our mortgage: we've intended to set up a bi-weekly plan for awhile (here's another option)
    • Paying off our last remaining credit card balance by the end of the year
  • Income Addition:
    • Increasing tutoring hours
    • Stepping up efforts to find a career job
    • Selling some Stuff we can't use and don't want
I know lots of my friends out there are setting financial goals for themselves this year, too.  What are you all doing?  Is there one area you're focusing on or are you taking a broader approach?  Any advice for us as we take these steps or questions about your own choices?