Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Free Learning!

I recently have been taking on a great free treat, podcasts. I am a mac user, but those of you with windows can also use iTunes to get a vast directory with every topic under the sun in podcast topics. Take an astronomy class from UC-Berkley, learn daily Spanish, or subscribe to podcasts on learning how to be more "green". If you are into talk radio, this is another great outlet as well, since topics can be specific to your own interests. Also, I know in the case of my husband, he has a particularily long commute to work every day, so there is always room to take advantage during the daily drive to play podcasts on American civil war history (yuck!). There are also video podcasts available too, if you like to watch your speaker. I like to load up on a podcast before a long trip on an airplane or by car on our journey back home, it makes things much more enjoyable and time go a little faster.

You don't need an actual iPod to use "podcasts" either, any mp3 player can work just fine! Depending on the length of the podcast, you may also be able to burn them on to CDs, if you do not have a type of mp3 player transmitter to your car radio. Grow your interests with podcasts, its knowledge at your disposable, with entertainment on the side. The list of podcasts on iTunes is growing every week too, so check back every once in a while!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Great Article on Saving Money for Families

Check out this great article from on 101 money-saving tips for families

Friday, October 17, 2008

Upromise, for the future or today!

Upromise is an awesome program that you can sign up for online, in which participating retailers will donate to a college fund for you (if you are under age 25) or your child (or future children) when you buy their products.

You can participate in the program through many mediums:
a) Getting the Upromise Citi Credit Card. With the credit card, 1% of all purchases go towards a college fund, and 10% of purchases at selected restaurants and grocery store/drug store items.
b) Shopping online at selected retailers with your registered credit or debit card. Savings range from 1-25%.
c) Dining with participating restaurants. When you register with the Upromise website, you will be provided a list of local restaurants in your area that are a part of the Upromise program, and you can receive up to 8% in college savings.
d) Using your grocery store and drug store "club cards" - when you enroll there is a place to provide the numbers of your grocery store and CVS store card numbers. Different products will offer different amounts of college savings, and the Upromise website also offers e-coupons on other select products.
e) In addition there are also ways to save money for college on travel by booking with many popular online companies like Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity (also rental cars and vacations); ordering from select retail catalogs; and other random services. For example, if you have a wireless line with Sprint, you can earn $50 per line.

If you have a child, considering having a child, or are in college yourself, consider registering with Upromise. In addition, family members and friends can donate to your fund with same registration process online. You receive the amount you get back from your purchases either via check, having it deposited into a 529 fund, or you can already put it towards a student loan already taken out. Every little bit helps!

Sunday, October 12, 2008


As someone who is training for and working in the field of mental health, we are all taught how hard it can be to find someone to help with problems or issues in our lives. There is an inevitable stigma that follows the idea of "therapy". For those of you unfamiliar with the experience of therapy, let me advise you, a) we do not have you lie on a couch to talk about yourself, thats a personal choice for you; b) not every therapist will ask you in-depth questions about your childhood, believing that's where you problem is (although there are still some out there that do); c) by going to therapy does not mean you are crazy, everyone has problems, and this is one of the many common ways to resolve personal problems; d) its important that you feel comfortable with and trust your therapist. I've had bad experiences myself, so if that person creeps you out or is not connecting with you, find another therapist.

In addition to feeling comfortable with the idea of going to therapy, there another issue of finding a way to pay for it. The hourly rate can be pretty ridiculus! I've been looking around at possible sources to receive free or close to free therapy, besides private practice, which is typically far from free, and here is what I know of or have discovered.
  • Students - If you attend a college or university, it is likely your school has a counseling center which will serve you for a smaller rate if not free. I've seen universities where you will be charged after the first session (for very cheaply in comparison to private practice rates), or sometimes it costs nothing at all, all you have to do is make the appointment.
  • Health and Human Services-type-organizations run in your local county - Often times your local county will have therapists and psychologists on board that are working for free to earn hours toward licensure, and fees are assessed on a sliding scale, meaning they assess fees to you for services based on your income, family size, and other financial obligations. You may have to do some searching on the internet for these services, like checking out your county's website, or typing in "[your county] mental health center" on google. In addition, many private practices to incorporate a sliding scale fee, but you won't know until you ask around. To look for services in your area, check your phonebook or type in "mental health in [your city]" on google to get a list of practices with their websites that might provide this information.
  • Check your insurance policy! I was shocked to find that my insurance company, pending authorization, lets me see therapists in private practice for only $20 co-pay per session. (Not to say $20 isn't a lot, but it is much cheaper than the normal cost). However, the risks with using your insurance is that diagnoses are released to them. If your comfortable with that, go for it. If your insurance still has a crappy co-pay rate, check on it occasionally in the upcoming year. With the recent approval of the bailout bill, there was also a "mental health parity" bill approved, which means that insurance companies must be fair in assessing fees for mental health treatment - meaning they have to cost the same rates as it would be to treat a physical condition.
  • Group Therapy/Support Groups - Group therapy is a commonly used method due to the fact its cheaper since only one or two therapists are needed to serve a large amount of people in a group at one time. In addition, people learn greatly from their peers as well as with guidence from their therapist, so a lot of times its a win-win situation. Good places to look for these are health and human services type organizations from the county, non-profit mental health organizations, and hospitals. Again, type in "mental health in [your city]" on google to look at websites of practices that offer these services. Looking at my local hospital's website, there are numerous support groups for free, however, due to the fact its a hospital their support groups are more aimed towards those with physical conditions.
  • Online therapy/support groups - Due to my personal circumstances, I use these and find them to be helpful. Its also nice if you do not feel like going to actual group therapy, however, I don't believe you will get as much out of doing this online. It's a very different experience. One of my favorites is, which provides support groups for all different types of medical conditions, as well as other life circumstances that can cause a potentially great amount of stress. In addition, its also like facebook or myspace where you have a profile page and can journal and set goals for yourself. You're also likely to find support groups in places like Yahoo Groups or Google Groups, all you have to do is search for it. If you can't find what you are looking for, consider starting one! I'm actually liking this a lot, so give it a try if you think it would be useful to you.
  • Student Training Centers - If you are close to a university that offers graduate programs in counseling or clinical psychology, then you might be in luck! Often times these programs will have clinics set up in university buildings which offer therapy for relatively cheap due to the fact that it is a training facility for students who are supervised by professionals.
If you are having some personal struggles in your life that you think you would like to open up about, but not your wallet, consider trying some of these options. If you have any questions for me, please feel free to comment or email

Good luck!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Nutrition and Your Body

I don't think you need me to tell you that good nutrition habits will help keep the doctor away, as well as any medical bills or even money for cold or flu medicine. There are awesome ways to plan out your diet on and of course, books galore on the subject. I often found myself discouraged with eating right because I didn't have the time or the money to do so. "That means making meals I don't know how to make and spending a lot of money at the Co-op for organic foods" I would tell myself. Not necessarily true. I know most of my meals are "on the go" types. Rarely do I get time to actually sit at the dinner table to eat (and then again, I do not have children to feed either). A good strategy for preparing on-the-go lunch types are one word: leftovers. On Sunday night, when I actually have time to prepare a meal, I make it larger than usual, and then use the remaining leftovers as my lunch for the rest of the week. Easy, microwavable, and likely to be healthier than fast food or a bag of potato chips. In addition, good lunches can consist of some excellent sides that come in bulk, like buying a large bag of pretzels, and putting them in a sandwich bag and then a REUSABLE lunch sack everyday. I also buy a large sack of string cheese or yogurt, and possibly some canned fruit into a small tupperware container. This is also where your reusable water bottle comes in handy. Lunches like this can generally cost (depending on ingredients) less than 50 cents!

Not everything has to be organic to be "green" or healthier. I always thought you would have to shop at the Co-op to be eating healthier, and I have often strayed away because their prices are generally very expensive. I wish I could afford to be a regular patron, but being a student does me no favors here. There are many items in your grocery store that already offer organic options, and you might not even know it. Even making switches from white rice to brown rice, white bread to wheat bread are going to be steps in the right direction. After eating healthier foods for a while, I notice that I can't go back due to the awful taste. Lays Baked Chip options have already turned me away from most regular fried potato chips...they just taste different now. Your produce section by far will be your healthiest, and likely provide more organic options. Kashi, usually found in the cereal aisle, offers some great granola bars that I have almost everyday for a mid morning snack. They offer a lot of great (and tasty, I might add) options for high dietary fiber intake. Kashi is one of many companies known for its organic nature, and natural gravity towards wellness. Right now they are offering coupons for a free cookie, one of their new products. I have also been noticing grocery stores are now adding separate "Natural Food" or "Organic" sections to the store. It will all be coming together before we know it, as grocery stores are now seeing the value of providing customers with healthier choices.

Beyond this information, if you have not seen documentary films like Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me, or Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, I would highly recommend either. They examine so much of what is going on in the food industry with corporations, and you can see the physical and psychological effects of bad eating habits, and the effects of this lifestyle on the environment, in Super Size Me. Consider either my "green recommendation for the month". BBC America also has a show, You Are What You Eat, which each show examines a generally overweight, British citizen every show, and shows them how their diet is effecting their behavior and life, and how to make positive changes in the right direction, which includes basic recipes as well as exercise routines. Think of eating healthy as a long term investment in your health.

I'd also like to invite you to take part in Vegetarian Awareness Month. Give it a try for a day if you aren't a vegetarian already. Many studies have shown that vegetarians are generally healthier and live longer than the rest of us meat eaters. Although I am not a vegetarian, I do appreciate vegetarian options and their lifestyle, and do occationally take part.