That Time I Went Vegetarian For A Month

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Homemade soba and watermelon juice

In my quest for reducing my meat consumption to just over a pound per week (environmental reasons), I noticed that my previous consumption of meat was frankly obscene. While I have never been one to eat a big steak or have meat be the centerpiece of a meal, it has always been a vital component, leading me to eat on average 2 pounds of it or more in a typical week.

And so I decided the best way to kick off my new reduced meat diet was to do a total reset, giving up meat entirely for a month.

What Did I Eat?

Breakfast: Almonds or cashews and ginger tea

Lunch: cooked – wheatberries with mushrooms kale and one minute poached eggs (basically lived off these); restaurant – eggplant parmesan, falafel mixed plate, bean burrito, beet salad, polenta fries, broccoli and tofu over brown rice

Dinner: cooked – ginger miso soba, bean tostadas, vegetarian chili, veggie pot pie, avocado and poached egg; restaurant – shahi paneer, saag paneer, sofritas tacos, stuffed squash blossoms, potato flautas, tofu pho, seitan roll, cornmeal battered oyster mushrooms, phyllo purse with tempeh and squash, thai green tofu curry

Snacks: Blackberries, hummus and pita, cashews, almonds, oranges

Drinks: watermelon juice, ginger tea, water

How Much Did It Cost?

Without going too deep into the numbers, I generally found buying vegetarian at the grocery store to be wicked cheap compared to my normal carnivorous ways (40-50% less than usual weekly bill). On the other hand, at takeout places and restaurants, discounts were only on the order of one or two dollars (10-15%).

So if I was super disciplined about cooking for myself every day, I probably could have gotten by on $150-200 for food the entire month. But, we all know I am not that person.

How Did It Feel?

Warning: This section acknowledges the existence of a variety of bodily functions.

Missing out on meat was a mixed bag for my body.

On the plus side I was super regular, never felt indigestion, had a relatively painless cycle, slept like a log, clear complexion, and had better emotional regulation than I’ve had pretty much forever. My energy levels were very stable, which was surprising because I thought I would experience more crashes.

However though my energy was stable it was also pretty consistently low. I never had the low lows in feeling but really didn’t experience high motivation either. I was constantly thinking about food (“chicken” was often at the tip of my tongue) and though I didn’t caliper it or anything I have a vague suspicion I lost muscle mass.

One of the weirder health things was that I gained a few pounds going vegetarian. And the distribution of where the weight went was strange. My bust size dropped precipitously from 34″ to 31″ and I lost a lot of flab around my arms. On the other hand my waist went up from 26.5″ to 29″ and fat was accumulating around my belly and thighs. I could feel over the course of the month my stomach getting into what felt like a permanent state of minor bloatedness (not painful, mind you).

After a month back to my normal diet I have pretty much reverted to my pre-vegetarian state. Maybe it’s the hormones they feed to animals? Or having fewer sweets and carbs like watermelon juice and soba? Or maybe I was eating out more than usual?

Would I Do It Again?

Short answer: Probably not.

Long answer: If I learned one thing over the course of this exercise it’s that I am emotionally addicted to meat. As the weeks wore on I became less excited about food. Eating became a thing I had to do to stay alive and was less a warm comforting feeling. By the end I could have been on a Soylent-only diet and felt the same emotionally about it as my varied vegetarian fare.

At the same time, I continue to believe that my meat consumption needs to be reduced for environmental and moral reasons. Plus, within my lifetime we may see a big difference in the availability of meat, and I am happy to know I could survive a post-meat world if needed.

I can see myself continuing to incorporate more vegetarian meals into my diet, maybe once and a while having a meatless week to reset my carnivorous excess. Or even becoming pescatarian (I think that would have made this month a LOT easier). But a vegetarian at heart I am not, nor will I ever be.

How about you? Are you a vegetarian or, if not, would you consider giving up meat?

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A Week Of Spending With A Yuppie Millennial

Housing: 2 bedroom condo in HCOL area. Live with boyfriend who at my request contributes money to his retirement accounts instead of paying me rent. That way we’ll have more money sitting in tax advantaged accounts when we’re married.

I try to keep my baseline monthly spending around $3250-$3500 including housing, which is by far my biggest expense (followed by food). I make exceptions for charitable donations and one offs like travel for leisure and big tech purchases (phone, computer). Also home improvement, though going forward, I expect home maintenance spending to come out of allocated fund to which I contribute monthly (with exception of solar which I consider more of an investment).

My annual savings rate is roughly 65-75%.

Expenses

Monthly

  • Housing (mortgage, insurance, property taxes, condo fees): 2025
  • Home maintenance fund: 250
  • Utilities (gas, electric, water): 50-75 (my half)
  • Internet: 22.50 (my half)
  • Phone: 56 (unlimited text, calls, 3 GB data)
  • Insurance (from work: health, dental, life, disability): 65
  • Transit: 85 

Yearly

  • Charity + brother’s college tuition: 10% net income
  • Subscriptions (Amazon Prime, password manager): 112
  • Flights to visit family 2x: 850 or as many JetBlue points as I can conjure up

Weekly Spending

Saturday

12:30 PM – Pick up a fruit and cheese plate at Starbucks for Little Sis to nosh on for lunch. (5.62)

1:00 PM – Little Sis’s sleep schedule is all messed up so I scrub the shower grout and warm myself some leftover mazeman ramen while she naps on my couch.

6:30 PM – After dropping off Little Sis I realize my phone contract is finally up! I order the 5X for Google Fi (264.56) to replace my cracked-screen Galaxy. I also get a phone case off Amazon (16.99).

7:00 PM – Make myself a beet salad for dinner with beets, arugula, honey, ricotta, olive oil, and pistachios.

Sunday

11:30 AM – Work on a client presentation all day while laying in bed. Feeling lazy and cooped up, I order lunch: goat rogan josh and garlic naan for delivery. (29.61)

8:00 PM – Still overstuffed from Indian food from lunch. I take my usual 2.5 mile route for jogging to help aid the digestion.

Monday

12:15 PM – I work from home so I can work on client distraction without being pestered by coworkers. It is also BF’s day off, so we decide to have a leisurely lunch together. We go to a nearby ramen shop and I get a spicy miso ramen with pork cheek. It’s BF’s turn to pay.

1:15 PM – I stop by the local bakery on the way home and pick up a 5″ blueberry pie. (8.00)

5:00 PM – I take a break from working to eat some pie.

7:00 PM – Leftover beet salad for dinner and then work into the evening.

Tuesday

9:30 AM – Cashews from the free snack bar at work for breakfast.

11:45 AM – I visit the Italian place around the corner from my office for the eggplant rolls with prosciutto and mozzarella. (8.55)

1:55 PM – I get an email from Thinx that my return request has gone through. I don’t even need to send back the original undies. +214.40

7:00 PM – BF and I play Pandemic Legacy with a couple friends. We order from a pan-Asian place on Foodler. I get gyoza, salmon maki,and miso soup. (24.50)

Wednesday

9:45 AM – Cashews from the snack bar.

12:00 PM – I visit the food trucks for some BBQ pork salad and deviled tea eggs. (11.24)

6:00 PM – I order Working by Studs Terkel off Amazon at the recommendation of a coworker (12.16). More leftover beet salad for dinner.

6:30 PM – My new phone has arrived so I spend some time activating it and fiddling around to get used to the new UI.

7:30 PM – It looks like it is about to rain so instead of jogging I do one of my hour-long cardio/yoga videos.

Thursday

9:45 AM – Almonds from the snack bar.

11:00 AM – I realize my new phone has a USB-C charger. Since I cannot find any lying around, I order one from Amazon to keep at my desk at work. (8.99)

12:00 PM – Leftover beet salad for lunch.

7:00 PM – I have some time to kill before my evening fitness class. I go with a friend to a Mexican place near the fitness studio and we share tamales and braised pork. (23.81)

8:45 PM – I go to my first (and probably last) capoeira class at the behest of Ann. By the end of class the blisters under my feed squish whenever I walk and everything up to my waist is sore af. (20.00)

Friday

10:15 AM – Almonds from the snack bar.

12:00 PM – I hit up Pret A Manger for falafel wrap with red pepper sauce. (7.48)

7:00 PM – Friend and I go to a German pub near my place and share charcuterie, borscht, and potato pancakes. (23.54)

Total spending for the week: $226.12

Parting Thoughts

To some degree my money diary reads more like a fitness and food diary. I think that’s largely because those are things I tend to prioritize and take up a lot of my mental bandwidth outside of work.

This week I spent quite a bit on eating out (more than is normal, even for me). This is mostly because I was busy: social obligations plus stressful work generally leads to me cooking less. As an aside: Gosh I eat a lot of salty foods. I’ve also gotten out of the habit of my morning smoothie. I am thinking I should incorporate that back in since my usual diet is very much lacking in the vegetable department.

What does your weekly spending look like? Any tips on how to eat out less during a busy week? 

Living My Values: September 2016 Update

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  1. Charity. Allocate 10% of paycheck for donation to charitable causes addressing poverty, hunger, civil rights, education, and the environment. PASS! This is fully incorporated into my routine at this point so I plan to drop from the list going forward.
  2. Civics. Volunteer to get out the vote in nearby swing state. Write to my mayor and state representatives about police enforcement and local issues. FAIL! I need to sign up for canvassing still. Also need to reach out to state representative and state senator on a couple issues.
  3. Meat. No meat eating in August. Reduce regular meat consumption to 1 lb/week. PASS! AND THEN FAIL… Made it through August without eating any meat (plan on writing a post about it soon). Since then though I’ve been a downright carnivore. 
  4. Energy. Talk with my neighbor about getting solar or participate in a community solar program. PASS! We are installing an 8.1 kWh system on the roof, exclusive ownership to our unit. Payback should be 3-5 years and revised numbers are on the blog post. Next step is to follow up with solar installer to get appointment with structural engineer. Hopefully we can get this don’t by end of year.
  5. Home. Finish the following outstanding home maintenance projects: siding repair, gutter repair, fix windows, clean dryer vent, reseal kitchen and bath grout, minor plaster repair, set up patio furniture. IN PROGRESS/ON HOLD. Finished siding, Windows and some of the gutter work. BF is taking care of bath grout and I plan to figure out the rest of this toward the end of fall after I finish my class.
  6. Finances. Reduce my expenses by refinancing (under way) and switching cell carriers when my contract ends. Start dipping my toes into P2P investing in such a way as to give individuals attempting debt recovery access to my capital. PASS! Finished all of these and will be dropping this going forward as I put my finances on autopilot. 
  7. Simplify. Draft a home maintenance schedule so as to reduce the amount of time spent thinking about upkeep later. NOT YET STARTED/ON HOLD. Adding bedroom declutter to this list.
  8. Self. Continue my current habits of healthy diet, exercise, sleep, reading, and volunteering. PASS! Been pretty good about taking care of myself this month.

Adding to list the following:

Labor. Complete training course. Apply for job at BigTechCo that looks super interesting (for which training will be super helpful).

How have you been doing on your goals this month?

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My Job Is Not My Life… Except When It Is

I work in tech, but I don’t love programming. Like, it’s fine, I don’t hate it and sometimes it can be soothing, but if you asked me what I might be up to on a Saturday night, contributing to an open source project is not in the top 25 most likely answers. Maybe not even top 100.

Now in most professions this might be considered good. Healthy. Like a semblance of work-life balance. We don’t expect garbage collectors to pick up trash on their days off, accountants to be crunching numbers. But in tech? Ha! If you’re not running a side project or reading up on the latest configuration management tool you are falling behind. At least that’s the impression people give, anyway.

So in good tech fashion I will be, at the behest of my manager, taking a 12 week part time course from September to December in the evenings.  6 hours per week of class time plus another 6-10 per week of “homework.” Fuuuuunnnnn.

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Do you want to lie on the ground and feel like garbage with me?

There are some silver linings. I got to pick the course and it is something I have experience in that needed brushing up. And my employer is paying, so that’s good. And of course this is all kind of empty whining because I have a job that pays well and I should probably just be grateful for that. But, man, my fall is going to be BUSY.

Are you required to do training outside of work? 

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Dubrovnik in Pictures

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City walls

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View of town from city walls

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Lovrijenac Fort (The Red Keep)

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Earing a picnic dinner on AirBnB patio

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City by night

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Best squid I’ve ever had (Lacroma)

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Benedictine Monastery (Lokrum)

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“Dead Sea” (Lokrum)

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Neptune Fountain at Trsteno Arboretum

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View of the pier by Trsteno

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Living My Values: August Update

Goal update:

  1. Charity. Allocate 10% of paycheck for donation to charitable causes addressing poverty, hunger, civil rights, education, and the environment. PASS! I am actively contributing 10% of each paycheck. So far I have given to one conventional local food bank, another local nonprofit that specializes in getting fresh overstock produce that would otherwise be thrown out to food banks and low income residences, and set aside cash for brother’s fall tuition (which for now I am considering part of my “charity” bucket).
  2. Civics. Volunteer to get out the vote in nearby swing state. Write to my mayor and state representatives about police enforcement and local issues. IN PROGRESS. I have updated my voter registration and gotten the contact info for a local canvassing org which I plan to contact next week.
  3. Meat. No meat eating in August. Reduce regular meat consumption to 1 lb/week. IN PROGRESS. Guys, not eating meat sucks so very much. I am a terrible vegetarian.
  4. Energy. Talk with my neighbor about getting solar or participate in a community solar program. Turn down water heater temperature. IN PROGRESS/FAIL! Planning to go to community Q&A next week for setting up condoized solar. Water heater was already below 120F (hellooo Legionnaires’) and dropping further was uncomfortable so we will be keeping at current temp for now. I also researched into buying new energy efficient fridge but the economics don’t really work (would cut fridge electric use in half but only save $30ish/year for a $600 appliance. Going to still look around to see if I can find any other energy demons but I think we are near our min base level usage.
  5. Water. Reduce shower times and research lower flow showerheads to cut household water use by 25%. FAIL! New low flow showerhead was painful to use (did this weird sputtering thing). Part of me wants to get an egg timer for the shower but another part of me is like maybe I am okay with long showers being a vice of mine?
  6. Finances. Reduce my expenses by refinancing (under way) and switching cell carriers when my contract ends. Start dipping my toes into P2P investing in such a way as to give individuals attempting debt recovery access to my capital. IN PROGRESS! Refinance is closing in a couple weeks and have all the paperwork out to start investing with Lending Club.
  7. Simplify. Draft a home maintenance schedule so as to reduce the amount of time spent thinking about upkeep later. NOT YET STARTED.
  8. Personal. Continue my current habits of healthy diet, exercise, sleep, reading, and volunteering. MIXED. Been keeping up with everything but reading (been earworming podcasts instead).

 

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Progress, slow yet steady

 

Alright, so assuming I am giving up on #5, maybe I should come up with  new goal. How about:

Home. Finish the following outstanding home maintenance projects: siding repair, gutter repair, fix windows, clean dryer vent, reseal kitchen and bath grout, minor plaster repair, set up patio furniture.

What goals are you working on? What progress have you made?

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Shrinking My Life To Match My Values

The past few months I have been in a rut. Lots of anxiety, but not much change. I have been tunnel-visioned, I think, into focusing just on growth and accumulation in my finances. And because of that, I have neglected progress in so many other areas of my life.

20160728_095003Vacation has been helpful in allowing me to redirect that unsettled energy. Instead of thinking about what actions I cannot take because of life constraints and being annoyed by it (e.g. quit my job, have kids now) I have been thinking about things I can do now to make my life closer to what I want it to be on axes other than family and finances. What kind of person do I want to be? What kind of legacy do I want to leave behind? And how do I get myself closer to my version of a “good” life, a “good” self?

With that in mind I have come up for new goals for the rest of the year:

  1. Charity. Allocate 10% of paycheck for donation to charitable causes addressing poverty, hunger, civil rights, education, and the environment.
  2. Civics. Volunteer to get out the vote in nearby swing state. Write to my mayor and state representatives about police enforcement and local issues.
  3. Meat. No meat eating in August. Reduce regular meat consumption to 1 lb/week.
  4. Energy. Talk with my neighbor about getting solar or participate in a community solar program. Turn down water heater temperature.
  5. Water. Reduce shower times and research lower flow showerheads to cut household water use by 25%.
  6. Finances. Reduce my expenses by refinancing (under way) and switching cell carriers when my contract ends. Start dipping my toes into P2P investing in such a way as to give individuals attempting debt recovery access to my capital.
  7. Simplify. Draft a home maintenance schedule so as to reduce the amount of time spent thinking about upkeep later.
  8. Personal. Continue my current habits of healthy diet, exercise, sleep, reading, and volunteering.

Note that most of these goals are about shrinking my life rather than growing it. Reducing my environmental footprint, reducing my personal capital accumulation and directing it outward to others who need it more, streamlining my existing processes. With the notable exception of political action, of course, where I want to expand my influence than decrease it.

There are a couple of pipe dream items I am not putting on the list this year. For one, BF is unconvinced my aquaponics obsession is going to last (“But we can grow eggplants on our windowsill! And teach our kids about nitrogen cycles!”). But all in all I am glad to be taking steps forward now and not delaying my best self until the finances are convenient.

What do you value? What actions have you taken lately to be your “best self”?

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Going Solar: Crunching The Numbers

Updated based on real numbers and better understanding of state invective programs. 

Cost of System

We plan to purchase a 30-panel (8.1 kWh) solar installation. With microinverters ($750), snow guards ($500), and installation, and under our city’s bulk solar purchasing scheme ($3.02/watt) that comes down to $25,712.

After the 30% federal tax credit and $1k state tax credit, the net cost will be $16,998.40.

Current Energy Use

Looking over our power bill we average around 5.1 kWh/day in the summer and just under 6 kWh in the winter. I assume our average is roughly 5.5 kWh/day for simplicity.

When we generate all our energy from solar, our average energy bill will drop from $40/month to around $10/month (minimum charge for grid connectivity). That’s a $360 savings per year.

Energy Generation on Roof

I use  Google Project Sunroof to estimate the energy generation from my roof.

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According to Project Sunroof, we would see about 1498 hours of usable sunlight a year or 4.10 hours/day of generation. Assuming peak generation during that period, that is 33.21 kWh/day.

So, clearly such a huge system would generate way more energy than we need (33.21 kWh generated versus only 5.5 kWh).

Net metering

But those extra 27.71 kWh aren’t wasted, no way! They go back to the grid and I get reimbursed for the excess energy I generate by my utilities provider in the form of credits on my energy bill at a rate of 18 cents/kWh.

Unfortunately I can’t cash out these energy credits directly. But I can transfer them to someone else in the area, perhaps selling them to friends and neighbors at a 20% discount. This would yield roughly $1456 over the course of a year.

Selling SRECs

In addition to net meteting, my state has an SREC (solar renewable energy credit) program. This means that as my panels generate electricity, I accumulate SRECs that can be sold on the open market to utility providers. These SRECs are needed by the energy company to prove that some share of their energy generation is from renewable sources. That means whatever money or benefit I derive from energy consumption is on top of the SREC income.

If my panels are done by the end of this year, my SRECs will command a price of $270/1000 kWh with 5% drop in value each year until I lose the benefit in 1o years. Therefore I will receive $3272 in the first year of panel ownership and  $24,546 over the course of the first 10 years of ownership (more than covering the cost of the panels themselves).

Payback Period

Cost of panels after tax rebates – $16,998.40

Annual payback from panels:

  • Reduced electricity bills – $360
  • Net metering credits – $1,456
  • SRECs (5% reduction/year) – $3272

With a first year income of $5k, we are looking at a payback period of 3-4 years.

How about you? Have you gone solar or are you considering it?

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Money and Anxiety

Warning: Navel gazing overshare, below

Periodically I get anxious about my finances– a fact which comes as a surprise only to those readers who thought it a 24/7 affliction. My anxiety tends to surface when I am feeling down about my work, which unfortunately lately has been happening more often than not.

Here’s the logic: I do not much like my industry. But my job pays well and I need to support my family (both the generation above and future generation below). So for now and until I have enough to semi-retire in roughly 10 years, in my industry I choose to stay.

“But wait!” says my rebelling brain. “Ten years is way too long! Can’t you make it shorter?”

My brain has two ways of dealing with anxiety: “act” or let it go. And since money is the only thing I can’t really let go, I instead have these optimization binges, complete with spreadsheets and incessant Mint or PF blog or Redfin checking (because apparently anxious-me thinks RE investing would greatly reduce my stress levels?).

So I recrunch the numbers, consider where I can spend less or how many more hours I could work. I think about refinancing or renting out the second bedroom on AirBnB while BF goes out of town for the weekend. I pretend for about ten seconds that I am handy enough to do all our home maintenance. I curse my exorbitant food spending and needing pricey PT every other year for a new sprain or ache. And in my very very worst moments (really not proud of this) I think about how much “easier” it would be to date a high earner instead of someone on a social worker’s salary.

Sometimes I make some moderate change in my finances and that’ll do the trick. “It’s progress,” I say to my brain. “You can’t say that I didn’t try.” But other times there won’t be any realistic changes to make or any progress I do see is deemed not enough. The anxiety gets worse and my brain thrashes until it hits a low of a depressive stupor.

I have considered on and off going to see a therapist about my money anxiety. I haven’t yet for a few reasons:

(1) Under my insurance therapy is very expensive and that directly triggers my already money anxious brain.

(2) I fear the process of shopping around for therapists, thereby opening myself up to the scrutiny and judgement of a series of strangers who may make me feel worse during an already unsettled time.

(3) I have a stereotype in my head that therapists come from affluent backgrounds and treat those who do too. I worry they will not understand my cultural context (the obligation of taking care of a parent financially) or be able to help me unlearn behaviors I adopted when anxious and poor.

(4) I vaguely worry (though this is more of a rationalization than a real worry) that the medical records at my therapists office will be poorly secured and that someday they will be hacked. I worry that potential future employers will discriminate against me if they knew about my intermittent lapses in mental health.

(5) Having friends who were forcibly hospitalized when I was a teenager, it is hard for me to fully shake off the general feeling of mistrust for the judgment of mental health professionals. This is much less of a worry to me now as an adult than it was when I was an agentless minor.

(6) My anxiety and depressive moods always go way eventually and, believe it or not, have gotten substantially better over time. I hold out a weak hope that maybe the problem will figure itself out on its own and someday will lessen to the point of being a non issue.

Anywayyyy, that’s where I’m at. </cathartic rambling>

How about you? Do you have overwhelming anxiety about money? Have you ever seen a therapist about it?

Feel free to comment below or send a message through my Contact form if you want to send me a note privately.

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