White car with dark spots on it from a bad paint job

Six Steps to Saving Money by DIYing Everything Like a Bad-ass Engineer

In my freshman engineering seminar, there was one phrase forever drilled into my head: “Engineers Solve Problems (ESP™).”

ESP was the one thing that brought all the disciplines together – from six sigma-ing industrial engineers to code monkey computer engineers (engineers can be super cliquey).

So how can you be like an engineer? You guessed it – by solving problems. Why would you want to? Oh, man, because engineering is cool? No? Okay, how about saving money, time, and sanity? Yeah, I thought so.

Step 1: Destroy Mental Barriers

“But everyone solves problems,” I hear you groan, “What makes engineers special?”

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5 Lessons in Happiness from My Dog

Happy International Happiness Day! This is a preamble into an upcoming article on hacking happiness with actual numbers and charts and graphs.

And, as always, this is also an excuse to show off adorable dog pictures:
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Fluffster with money on snout

Letting It Rain for a Good Cause

It’s not like we have never donated to charities before. We’ve sent the Red Cross the odd donation, and we’ve donated on behalf of coworkers running for charity. We’ve even pitched in for a couple Go Fund Me’s for friends in tough situations. It was just never a lot – $200-$300 a year at the most.

This year, we’re 10Xing that.

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Cambridge Fire 2016

Rental Insurance and Holy Shit, Cambridge Fire

Last Saturday there was a ten alarm fire in Cambridge, MA, the largest fire in the area since the 80s. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured, but still – holy shit. Eleven buildings, over 60 people affected, multiple fire departments on the scene, and now that area looks unrecognizable.

It started scarily close to Fergus’s grad school apartment, making me even more thankful nothing similar happened to that fire trap of a house he lived in for years. Seriously – an electrician came by once to fix a problem and basically said “This house would be up in flames instantly if there was a fire,” which unfortunately is not that uncommon with the older homes in Cambridge. And of course those living in these fire traps are often lower income, students, or immigrants – people who don’t have a choice.

We know at least one family that’s been displaced. Apartment, car, all material possessions – gone during one awful day. And no rental insurance. Like many others, they took to crowd funding (we contributed), but not everyone can rely on that.

What does rental insurance cover?

Rental Insurance covers a few different things, the core being (more detail below):

  1. Cost to replace personal possessions
  2. Costs related to loss of use of insured location
  3. Personal liability
  4. Medical payments to others

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Chromebook

To Chromebook or Not to Chromebook

I just got a new computer. And I love it.

I primarily wanted something for writing (this blog + other random projects), and for general checking email, browsing the web and the like. I needed something lightweight and portable, something I could pick up on a whim for hours of creation. I went with a Chromebook and am very happy with my decision.

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Diving With Octogenarians and Not Worrying (So Much) About Money

These past 6 weeks have been crazy busy. Three work trips and a 10 day vacation totaling $5883 (over five months rent!!).

The work trips were actually pretty great in their own rights. I was able to get in some sightseeing, meet up with family I haven’t seen since I was literally a baby, and grow friendships. I’ve always been fairly friendly with work colleagues, but now I’m building more honest-to-goodness friendships – the kind where we would actually keep in touch if I quit work tomorrow. It’s pretty awesome.

And that vacation? Best ever, hands down. Me and Fergus, my 80-year-old grandparents, and two of their “retired” friends spent 10 days in the Cayman Islands full of sting rays, sunscreen slathering, and scuba diving. Yes, scuba diving. Continue reading

Be Lazy, Eat In: Frugal Kitchen Breakfast Edition

I am spoiled. Fergus is in charge of cooking, and for good reason: his food is delicious (plus he enjoys cooking). Some mornings I literally wake up to the offer of breakfast in bed.

Yet as I write this Fergus, is away on a business trip. And I can’t cook. And I hate cleaning the kitchen. What’s a frugally minded, culinarily-impaired engineer to do? Since we only go to restaurants rarely (and they have to be special, not just a convenience purchase), eating out is not an option. That would be weak.

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$4/mo Smart Phone Plan

While there are quite a few things we’re willing to spend extra money on, cell phone service plans are most certainly not on that list.

We spend a whopping $4/mo per phone, which includes hours of talking, dozens of texts daily, and mobile data. Here’s how.

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Montreal and New Straw

We went on vacation to Montreal earlier this month! During a snowstorm! And it was fun!

We live in the Boston area, meaning we’re about a five hour drive away from Montreal. And yet, in our years living around Boston, we’ve never visited Canada. A foreign country, with a foreign language (in Quebec province), right there, close enough to take Fluffster along for the ride. Granted, most people there speak English, but I still got to order a croissant in French.

At this point you might be wondering why “straw” is in the title, much less “new straw.”

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Lazy Grocery Shopping at $300/mo

We do not take extensive inventory of the fridge or the cupboards before heading out, and we certainly do not go in with shopping lists. We practice lazy, but frugal, grocery shopping. On a typical month, we spend right around $300/mo on groceries, and when we used to really cut back, we spent slightly over $200/mo on groceries for the two of us. For context, the USDA “Thrifty” food plan for a two adult family is $386.40 as of April 2016.

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