Thursday, January 13, 2011

Northern California 5K Dog Runs

So, if you don't know already, I am on a bit of a health kick that includes a personal trainer (an awesomely fantastic one I might add). One of my goals is to run a 5K, and I will try to run a few this year. There are a ton of 5K's that I would like to run locally, but very few allow dogs on the track (so sad!). I realized that tracking down the runs that allow dogs is time consuming, and it would be nice to have all in one spot.

In the right hand column I have included a new section. I have dedicated a portion of my blog to finding and reporting the dog runs in Northern California (mostly the bay area and the central valley). So stop by if you feel like running or walking, since most include a 2K walk alternative. After all, a run just isn't the same without your four-legged running buddy.

Monday, January 10, 2011


I know that I haven't posted about myself in a long time. So here it goes...this is what has happened in the last year or so:

1. Updates on the dogs
Both Penny and Nickel are excellent. They have gotten over their destructive streak and have stopped chewing on the furniture (but my socks are still fair game). It has been really cold at night, and I was worried to leave them outside since my classes get out so late, so they have been staying inside. I am happy to report they have been perfect angels....we shall see how long that lasts.

2. I became unemployed
This summer, lay offs hit my office. Instead of being afraid, I embraced the change. I would be able to spend more time with my family, spend more time training my dogs, work on my house, and most importantly spend more time on my school work. Do you think any of this happened? Of course not...but I try. And for those who are wondering, I can afford my mortgage and utilities on unemployment with a little to spare and my savings is what is keeping my happily afloat.

3. I fell off the saving wagon
Of all the times this could happen this is probably the worst time! All the frugality became a little overwhelming I guess. I still use coupons, but I'm not an uber-shopper the way I used to be. I don't follow the blogs anymore. I know that this needs to change. My grocery and food bills are terrible. This is something I need to work on.

4. I gained 20 pounds
I could blame this on unemployment, but this started happening before I was laid off. Honestly, I think it happened because I was so unhappy. I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel and felt torn between who I was at that moment and who I was working to become.

5. I became a vegetarian
I am not going to go into all the reasons I made the change. If you want more information you can watch the movie Food,Inc. or read Eating Animals. This does make it harder to shop and eat out, but I am still managing to spend a lot of money on both.

6. I am still in law school
Nothing much has changed here, but this summer will be the first without any classes. Next year I will have a reduced class load too.

Plans for this year:

1. I will loose 25 pounds
With the help of a personal trainer I will attempt the impossible! Okay, so I know its not impossible. Heck! I've done it before. I just know that this time will be much more difficult.

2. I will run a 5K with the dogs
There are at least 4 of these in my area over the next year. I plan on running them all. I will probably take Nickel with me (he's my cattle dog mix with loads of energy) but I feel bad for leaving Penny out. She's my beagle that seems to love laying on the couch more than anything else. I will try to do a little training with her and see how she takes it I guess.

3. I will save more money
I know my weakness is grocery shopping and eating out. I don't make lists or plan meals...even though I know I should since my weight loss will benefit from that as well. Coupons can be better used if I planned better too. I did buy a freezer, a very large ticket purchase made in the spur of the moment, but I hope that this will help me make food and save it for later.

4. Do I need a job?
I mean, I am looking. But most law firms are not looking to hire a paralegal in law school, especially a year and a half away from the bar. But...when summer comes, I will be bored out of my mind. I have the option of interning, working for free essentially. I guess I will decide on this a little later.

Monday, August 16, 2010

How to Save on Law School Textbooks:

First, Buy Used:

There are several sites you can used to buy textbooks at a discount. My favorite is Amazon. Some guidelines for a successful purchase:

  • Buy near or in your state to receive the item faster. The used book listings are provided by individual sellers, and shipped directly from them. Sellers are required to ship your book within 2 business days of the purchase. Additionally, most sellers will ship by Media Mail, since law school books usually weight upwards of 3 lbs. Media Mail is a slow service, but you can receive your book faster if you buy from a seller in or near your state (provided they are at a price you like).
  • Look at the sellers rating before you buy. A seller with a slight negative rating may not be a bad seller. You should check the individual bad ratings to see if the seller made it a point to respond to the bad remark. Occasionally, a buyer leaves a review for the book itself and not for the seller.
  • Factor in shipping to the price you pay. If you want an item quickly and wish to pay for the expedited shipping it can cost you.
  • Remember to give the seller feedback. Especially good feedback. Feedback on Amazon is not like other sites. Very few buyers actually take the time to provide the feedback, and it is that feedback which creates the rating you based your purchases on. Providing accurate feedback, both good and bad, can signal to other buyers which sellers are worth buying from.

There are a few other sites I use when I find the price is too high on Amazon:

  • Occassionally, the price you find on the used books here is lower. As a plus, they ship by UPS for free, which means you usually get your book quickly.
  • BarnesandNoble: Rarely, you can find the best price at Barnes and Noble online.
  • or eBay: I have never had much luck with buying from eBay or The few books I've bought on took longer than promised to arrive, arrive in a condition that is less than what was advertised, and I never find what I need on eBay. Still, the same guidelines apply: Check the ratings, buy close to you to get your books faster, and factor in shipping (which on eBay can be way overpriced).

There are a few sites out there claiming to compare the prices from sites on the internet, including Amazon and eBay, but I have found their pricing to be unreliable, so I just keep my favorites bookmarked and check with them first.

Oh, and remember to check RetailMeNot to see if there are any online coupon codes out there to sweeten the deals!

Next, Sell your used books:

Once you are done with the law school class you bought that book for (and make sure you have a passing grade!) you no longer need that book. There are a quite a few sites that will buy your book back or allow you to sell your book on their site. Personally, I have never sold my book back to any company I have purchased from. I find their buyback prices are about half of what I can get if I am just willing to do a little work. I have tried to put together as much as I know from the one sites I do sell my textbooks on: Amazon.


  • Fees: (only applies to books) 15% of the selling price. $1.35 Closing fee. $0.99 fixed closing fee (if you have a merchant account the last fee is waived). For example: You want to sell a textbook for $100.00 on Amazon, the fees will be: $17.34 ($15.00 + $1.35 + $0.99), and you will be paid $3.99 for shipping expenses. Your total profit will be: $86.65.
  • Shipping: You can not adjust the shipping amount the buyer pays so make sure the book listed will have enough profit to pay this expense. You can find padded envelopes at Walmart, Walgreen's, OfficeMax...anywhere you buy packing supplies. Also, Media Mail can cost anywhere from $3-$6 depending on the weight of the book. If you are just starting out, you may want to walk your book into the post office to make sure the postage is right. More confident sellers can use PayPal to create shipping labels, making your trip to the post office a simple drop off.
  • Listing: Amazon's listing is pretty simple. Look up the book, and click "Sell Yours Here" on the right hand side.
  • Condition and Description: If you are unsure on the condition, use Amazon's condition guidelines. If in doubt, go for the lesser rating, so your buyer will be pleasantly surprised at the condition of the book, rather than disappointed. Also, your description is very important. You want to include the condition of the cover and binding, if there is any highlighting or writing in the margins, and also how much of the book you think is highlighted. If you bought the book new and only used it for one semester, include that fact. If its highlighted in only one color, make sure to note that. Include as much information as possible, your buyers will be grateful.
  • Price and Shipping Method: This is pretty straight forward. Enter the price you want (before fees). Standard shipping is automatic. If you want to allow expedited shipping you can elect that, just know that you may have to pay a lot to ship a big textbook quickly.
  • Continue: The last page before you confirm your listing. This will show you what your profit will be if your item sells. pay nothing unless your item sells.
  • Notification Settings: You can adjust your notification settings on you Seller Account Page so that once your item sells you will be notified by email. This will save you from having to check back everyday to see if you sold anything. Keep in mind you have 2 business days to ship your book once its sold.

Too much work for you? That's fine, I know it seems like a lot if you are not used to it. There are a lot of sites out there that will buy back your used textbook:

And...if you want to find out which buyback service is going to give you the best price, you can use this buyback comparison site: BookScouter

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The HAPPY Act may bring tax credits for our four-legged friends

Missy Woodward interviews US Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-MI, who has introduced the HAPPY Act to provide a $3500 tax credit for pet and veterinary care. HR 3501, or the Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years (HAPPY) Act, would amend the Internal Revenue Code to allow individuals a deduction of up to $3500 a year for qualified pet care expenses. Qualified expenses would be amounts paid in connection with providing care (including veterinary care) for a qualified pet other than any expense in connection with the acquisition of the qualified pet. The pet must be a legally owned, domesticated, live animal. Animals used in research or business would not qualify for the deduction. The HAPPY Act may be welcome news to cat owners. The ASPCA estimates yearly expenses for one cat at nearly $700, and if the cat is a senior, has any health problems, or suffers an injury, the cost could be much higher. Individuals involved in animal rescue could benefit greatly by these allowable expense deductions as medical care is very costly and this could aid in the rescue of more animals from our nation’s overcrowded shelters. Individuals concerned about adopting animals during these difficult economic times could then move forward and save a life due to this tax break on qualified pet care. A win-win for humans and animals. The bill is currently with the House Ways and Means Committee. To further support this bill, please write your Congressman and urge them to co-sponsor / support the bill.

I've added a tracker to the side bar of my blog which updates on the status of the bill. You can also find out the exact details of the bill by following the link...its a very quick read and not confusing. The bill has been around for a while now, I'm just hoping that this actually passes instead of getting passed over and seen as unimportant. The only help we can offer is to contact our here are a few links for you:

Senator Dianne Feinstein
(Democrat • California • 4th Term • Sworn In 1992)
Official website:
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-3841
Fax: 202-228-3954

Senator Barbara Boxer
(Democrat • California • 8th Term • Sworn In 1983)
Official website:
112 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-3553
Fax: 202-224-0454

You can find other Representatives by following this link.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

New Years Resolutions

I know that a lot of people feel New Years Resolutions are one ever fulfills them, but how many people post them on the internet for the whole world to see? (Don't answer that). But I do have quite a few things I want to accomplish this year, and this is the perfect place to write them all down, and maybe remind myself of the direction I want to go this year.

I want a positive Net Worth (I don't want my current positive net worth to sink into a negative)

I think I will be able to easily accomplish this, but I will also need to change my lifestyle even more now. I have been receiving GI Bill payments for going to college, but those are coming to an end in February. It is a significant amount of money that I will no longer be receiving. Also, I will not be accepting my total payout on Unsubsidized Grad Loans, meaning another $4,000 I will not be taking (but also, I will not need to pay out). Also, I will be paying for my summer classes out of pocket. Lastly, I am expecting quite a few medical bills (Dental work and possible Lasik surgery), but I am hoping starting a flexible spending account to offset the cost and spread out the payments. I actually expect my net worth to drop this year, but I am hoping with some sound investment, I will make it out okay.

I want to learn one song on the piano and one song on the guitar

This is a personal goal of mine. I have a piano in my living room that's not getting any love. I have two guitars, one of which was a gift from last year, that has never been tuned. I miss my music. I need to make time in my life for this.

I want to walk my dogs every morning, and spend time training them every night

This is for their health and well being as well as mine. I know this will make them happier dogs, and it will help with my next goal.

I want to loose 20 lbs

Everyone seems to think I don't need to loose any weight (I'm a size 8, btw) and they are kinda right. I don't need to loose this weight, I want to. And maybe, once I loose 10 lbs I will like what I see and stop there. To do this, I plan on eating healthier, making my own lunches and dinners as often as possible (this will help save money too!). As far as a plan for eating, I am considering becoming a vegetarian for health reasons. I don't know that it would help, or just give me too many restrictions causing a melt down on my part, so right now its just a consideration.

I will clean up my home office and spare bedroom

I moved in one year ago and these rooms are still a mess. I would love to have my office all cleaned up and organized. The same goes for the spare bedroom. In order to accomplish both of these, I will need to buy some organizational items, such as shelves or bookcases. This will be a cost that I don't really want to incur, so for the next few months I will be searching the garage sales for some great deals.

I want to be a better law school student

Okay, so this isn't something with an easy fix. I actually don't really know how to be a better student. I've been checking out StudyHacks, and Tim Ferriss' blog (author of The 4-Hour Workweek) and I am hoping to start in a new direction this year.

These aren't really Resolutions, more of a list of things I would like to accomplish:
  • Complete the backyard (including sod in the spring @ $1,000)
  • Paint the bathroom
  • Learn some Spanish (thanks to Rosetta Stone)

More on how to accomplish these goals in a later post....

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cutting out the Coffee Cravings – How I cut down on those delicious but overpriced lattes

The simplest answer would have been – just stop going to Starbucks... but I couldn’t do it. Every time I skipped Starbucks before class I feel prey to the vending machine…with its tiny over-priced vanilla cappuccinos and the $1 bag of M&Ms. It was terrible, and not only for my waistline.

So I came to a resolve, if I couldn’t stay away, I had to spend less. And I did! I never thought I would become a tea drinker, but it happened. I went cold turkey. Well, not really…I drink black tea and green tea, both of which have caffeine. I get my fix, at a lower price point and calorie content…it’s a win-win-win for me!

I started by taking coffee out of the morning equation. For me, it was simply not brewing my daily coffee. Instead, I stocked my desk with tea bags and Splenda. The water cooler has a hot water tap which means….instant caffeine fix, at $0.30 a cup. Once I became accustom to the difference, then the transition at Starbucks was simple. I order a Venti Green Tea now. Instead of $4.00 I pay $1.85 ($2.30 if it’s iced).

The best part? Once I drink the tea, I add more water and microwave until hot and it’s like getting another 20 oz’s for free.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Net Worth - December 2009

Assets $ Diff% Diff
Other Real Estate$0--
Personal Property$0--
Total Assets$164,124--
Debts $ Diff% Diff
Home Mortgage(s)$133,749--
Other Mortgage(s)$0--
Student Loans$20,500--
Credit Card$995--
Car Loans$0--
Total Debts$155,244--
Net Worth$8,880--

Yay! My net worth is UP! 

Not much of a change, but I fell off the spending wagon too, I think I've spent about $400 on my pets between this month and last!!! (They are worth it, I swear)

Oh...and as for my obvious absence from blogging....I'M BACK! 

Thanks for your continued support :)