Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The ONB review of the year


Getting to move in with Amy even if it wasn't exactly what i had in mind.
Managing to see a bit more of the world (Morocco (paid for before we started) and Cost Rica (tagged onto the end of a work trip).
Deciding to keep going with the debts - to get Amy onboard we agreed just to do 6 months and $80,000 we've done loads more than that now.
Go on a few driving trips with Amy - she is a new but pretty good driver, i love being her co-pilot ("Watch out for the gas attendent!!!").
Writing my books and poems - this is such a cheap hobby but one that gives me (and hopefully others on day) great pleasure.
Feeling 110x closer to amy at the end of the year than i did at the start
Work has been incredibly good fun this year - a little less stress in 2009 and it would be golden
Having so Hannah and Sasha come over in April and Mum and Mike in the summer - it was great to show they around
Proposing to Amy - although we are going to have a second attempt at it with a proper ring and a proper bended knew
Managing to keep up the cycling and swimming although you'd never be able to tell from looking at me
Cooking more - i only cooked twice in 2007!!!!!

Being proposed to
Going to Morocco, Costa Rica, Vegas and England
Getting a raise ;)
Learning to make apple pie
Learning to budget my money


The funerals - it was lovely going back to UK at Xmas for a nice family event rather than a sad one
I haven't managed to read as many books as i would have liked
Upsetting Amy
Freaking out on the 'it's like a prison' day in our small room

Gareth upsetting me ;(

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy Holidays


That's right santa came early this year and actually gave me a bonus!!! PLUS freelance work - all totaling a nice amount.

All will go towards the loans bringing us down to...wait for it....



That means in under a year Gareth and I have paid off approximately $130,000.00

That's fucking bonkers!!!

Friday, December 26, 2008

When will you learn Gareth?


For Xmas Amy wanted "a nice plain locket with something special engraved on it."

So i got her a nice locket and took it to the engravers.

When he asked me what i wanted engraved on it i said "Something special."

"Like what?" he said

"Like something special - i want the words something and special engraved on it. That is what my fiancee said she wanted - "something special" engraved on a locket."

Everyone in the shop started laughing.

I liked the way the message worked on two levels...

1) Serious - Amy is something special to me
2) Silly - I did exactly what i was told to do

Unfortunately Amy had to go and collect the locket herself because they couldn't get it sorted in time before i flew back to the UK.

When the woman in the shop showed her she was far from happy and because it was late in the UK i wasn't able to explain it to her. She only could see reason 2 and just thought i was taking the piss and got upset and we all know xmas presents shouldn't be upsetting.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh i'm having flashbacks to the DIY engagement ring. Will i never learn?

It took 45 minutes on Skype the next day to help make Amy feel okay about it.

Thursday, December 25, 2008



Everyone a very happy Xmas.

G and A xxxxx

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Saving with Skype


After a shocking mobile phone bill I am now trying to us Skype as much as possible now i am back in the UK. The big bill is all work related but claiming the money back takes a bit of time so cash flow is becoming an issue. My bank account is running on fumes!!!

Skype is amazing. If you haven't already signed up - DO IT NOW!!!!!

EBay spent $2.6 billion buying Skype in September 2005 so that you can talk for free over the internet. Thank you eBay!



Gareth emailed me this morning freaking out saying he was 'overdrawn" from his bank account! He had absolutely no idea how this happened!! He apologized profusely saying 'he must have fucked up somewhere!" So I double check with the loan company and turns out I had clicked one to many times on the 'Submit Payment' button and they withdrew from his account twice!!! ARGGGGG!!!!!!

You pay and pay and pay when you are overdrawn!!! It sucks royally!! Thank god my bonus is coming in so we can take care of it quickly!!!

We both always double check every account - it must have been my excitement because we're down to the wire!! Soon we'll owe just over $60,000 which is beans compared to the original $184,000!!!!

I admire Amy's desire to pay it off as quick as we can but perhaps taking double from my account isn't the best way to do it - i still love you though boo xx

Woke up on Boxing Day (Dec 26th) to find the second lot of cash had been refunded and there was no sign on a banking fine in sight. Ho ho ho Merry Christmas.

Welcome to our world world


It feels like everyone is gearing up to start their own Operation Night Brace! The unemployment figures are going through the roof and belts are being tightened quicker than the restraints in a mental asylum.

Fear not world.

It really is okay.

You can do it.

Downscaling your wants into needs is a good thing.

It because everyone got greedy and wanted everything that we are in this mess.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Oh the days...


When I thought I had loads of money to spend, I would pay a premium for rare and bizarre services..errr...this is from last valentines day!!!


Xmas dinner


Because Amy and i aren't going to be together on Xmas day we celebrated it together before i left.

Forget the usual turkey meal. I decided to get a bit creative and made a meal called: 'Melted Snowman'.

On the plate i served up...

Mashed parsnips
Poached chicken (to keep it white)
Cauliflower cheese (baked carefully so as not to brown it)
Bread sauce
Funny white japanese mushrooms
White asparagus

In the centre of the plate i stuck an upright pointy carrot.

It made Amy laugh and it tasted alright.

Quote of the meal came from Amy: "Do you think if we ate enough of this it would make our poo go white?"

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Who needs wrapping paper when you have a free local paper and a roll of sellotape


I might have scrimped on the wrapping but i didn't scrimp on what's inside! Ho ho ho!

Gareth get's lucky with an oyster (but sadly not that kind of oyster)


So i am now back in the UK for Xmas (Amy is still busy at work but will be coming over on Boxing Day).

Today i had to do a bit of traveling around London. I pulled out my 2 year old Oyster card and was delighted to find it still had 6 quid on it. Sweet. A day of free travel for Gareth which is great thing as it costs a fortune getting round London without an oyster card - a single bus fare is now 2 pounds up from 70p when i lived here.

Saturday, December 20, 2008



This site gives you practical money saving tips relevant to our lives. But hopefully the takeaway is not only the small facts but the big idea that when you put your mind to something you can do anything!! From the small tidbits, e.g., making large vats of soup or shopping in bulk, to the large takeaways, e.g., using every resource you have, living with your mother if you have to!!!

After reading this you may also think to yourself, 'I know that, that's why i read it!" Duh!

Ok - so here is the reason for my post today...

My friend came up to me at work and said, "You know, because the financial meltdown I really think you guys should publish your blog as a book, I would use it!!"


A friend of a friend perhaps...???



This last Xmas after Amy flew home having met my family for the first time.


I can see it being a Xmas No 1

G xxx

Friday, December 19, 2008

Exchange Rate Worries (Second time lucky)


What the hell is happening to the pound????

I still have some savings in the UK that i'd love to put towards a deposit on a flat in New York but with the pound collapsing quicker than a granny on an icy path i have lost 25% if i bring it over to the States. Bah Humbug.

But as they say every cloud has a silver lining! If i was to convert my dollar salary into pounds i'd be 25% richer.

Oh how tempting it is to play the currency game :)

But when you look at what happened to Iceland i think it is best to stick to what your really know. They got into a lifetime's worth of trouble for taking loans out in foreign currency. Doh!!!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

There must be an easier way to make a living


After having spent both Saturday and Sunday doing stuff for work projects, I got up Monday morning at 4am and flew to Atlanta. A full day of meetings and conference calls followed. Got to the hotel at around 10pm ready to run a training course there the next day. Finish work on a document for a client at midnight.

Wake up at 6:30 on Tuesday to run the training course only to find out that there has been a miscommunication and I am in the wrong venue – thank goodness I didn’t set up last night.

Taxi to correct venue takes ages to arrive. I panic and persuade the night manager of the place I stayed at to drive me there for $20.

Arrive at correct venue 45 minutes late. Set up and run a full on session until 6pm.

Jump in a taxi to the airport.

Flight back to New York is delayed. Panic again, I have a 7:40am flight to the UK from JFK which I must catch for my Visa appointment on Thursday.

Flight keeps being delayed.

Finally they line us up to board the plane and then realise they don’t have a crew so that delays us another few hours. Honestly how can you not realise you don’t have a crew!!

Delayed over three hours in the end. What should have been an 8:20 flight ends up being an 11:35 one.

Arrive back at Newark and get a taxi to work to drop off the kit.

Finally get home at 2:30am on Wednesday morning.

Wake Amy up as I climb into bed – oops

Set alarm for 4:30 and try and get some sleep.

Alarm clock goes. Jump in the shower, gather up my cases and leap into a taxi to JFK.

Arrive at Terminal 4 to fly back home with Virgin Atlantic only to find out they aren’t flying from JFK.


Retrieve email confirmation on laptop and there it is in black and white – Depart JFK Terminal 4 at 7:40am.

Can’t find anyone to talk to at the terminal.

The Virgin America staff said it wasn’t there problem.

Try phone Virgin US helpline and get sucked into a world of automated phone messages.

Desperate I phone Virgin in the UK and a one hour phonecall begins which includes the following questions…

Didn’t anyone tell you that we now operate out of Newark?
Errrr Noooooo. I was just there 5 hours ago I could have just stayed there if I had known!

Can you get back to Newark before 6:40?
Errrrr Noooooo. I’m not superman. It is over an hours drive.

I got put on hold a lot but I tried to stay calm. Rob the Virgin employee was my only hope of getting to my Visa appointment (if I missed that I couldn’t work in the US and I have commitments I need to keep).

Rob tells me that they are looking to get me onto an American Airlines flight from JFK.

I jump on the Skytrain and head from Terminal 4 to Terminal 8 as this is where all the AA flights leave from.

Rob confirms they have got me a place on the flight. I wish Rob a very very merry Christmas.

I get to the AA check in desk and queue and queue and queue and queue . The staff are so fucking unhelpful. I waste an hour in the queue. The staff seem more interested in chatting amongst themselves and patting passengers dogs than getting us checked in.

My new flight is leaving in 60 minutes. Panic.

AA employee finally says to me: Don’t wait here. You’ll miss the flight.

Whattttt???? Now you fucking tell me!!!

I jump out the queue and go to self check in.

I swipe my passport and enter in my destination.

IT IS TO LATE TO CHECK IN FOR THIS FLIGHT appears on the computer screen.

It was 58 minutes before it was due to take off.

I go bonkers.

No no no. This can’t be happening.

I go up to the first class area and the security guard sees from the look in my eyes that I’m not joking and let’s me in.

Find semi nice AA employee who checks me in but tells me I should get to the airport earlier. I smile and say thanks rather than releasing both barrels of fury about the amount of time her co-workers wasted making me queue up.

Security, for once. is fast.

Walk straight to the gate and get on the plane.

Arrive at Chris’ house in North London at 11pm.

Lots of chatting and cups of tea.

Sleep on the sofa.

Set alarm clock for 6am so that I can get to the US Embassy for 7:30 (30 minutes before the appointment is what the paperwork tells me to do).

Make it through security and get give a ticket - 10019.

Wait an hour until my number is called.

I go up to the counter and get told: "You've got the wrong number. You need one with a 2 at the front.

Steam starts coming out my ears.

I go and get a new number and wait again.

I end up waiting around for 2.5 hours. Answer lots of questions and surrender my passport - Yippeeee i can stay in America for another 2 years.

I then jump on a train back to my sister’s.

At last I can relax. Shame about the 3 hours of conference calls schedule for Friday – the first day of my holiday.

Between Monday and Thursday I have had about 12 hours sleep, I have wasted 7 hours of my life in airports, spent almost 8 hours in the air, easily talked for more than 6 hours on the phone, spent 12 hours in meetings and visited one embassy where I sat on my arse for 3 hours.

There has to be an easier way to make a living.


And how much money did you spend?? ;) Well at least now you can get some rest (sounds like my trip to Florida that never happened ;)



... for the weird random blogs recently. Life has been crazy (see the entry above to see just how crazy) and i have fallen victim to scheduled posts!! Stuff i had as notes to write something interesting about have just popped up by mistake. Sorry. Normal service will now be resumed :)

The Xmas Gift Exchange

Hi guys,

It's getting to be that gift shopping time of year again... if you want to
be part of the ?! holiday gift exchange then please draw a name with Lori
starting today (or if you're not in for a while shoot her an email and she
can draw for you). If you don't want to participate this time around please
email her so she knows to take your name out.

Theme: East Village (you interpret)
Cost: $20 max
When: we'll exchange gifts day of our holiday party (yay!)


Monday, December 15, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Xmas Help


Ian sent me this today...

"Here's a good way to save money this Christmas: make sure you get the gift exactly right. see attached." 

It made me laugh

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bah humbug


Today is the Xmas party at work.

We are doing a secret santa where you have to spend $20 on someone drawn at random from a hat.

It was completely optional so i decided not to opt to do it.

I am the only person not doing it.

I feel like scrooge.


It is exactly 19:56 in NYC and in the room downstairs everyone is doing their secret santa presents. I have snuck out hoping that no one will miss me. Hmmmmm i don't think it was worth saving $20 over this. It feels terrible being on the outskirts of something. Next year i will buy 2 secret santa gifts to make up for it!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"It's raining chicken wings"


On the way home last night a small box was forced into my hands. In it was a hot and very tasty chicken wing. Ho ho ho Christmas has come early.

PS And no they didn’t give it to me because they thought I was homeless! They were giving them out to everyone.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008



This is an email I sent out to my family today ;) (Stinky is my niece)

So it’s that time of year again and we are all strapped for cash!!!

So here is what I propose...

Price: $20 MAX

Any gift that you buy canNOT cost more then $20...if it does, you have to return it!! It must be thoughtful so we all still feel loved :) That being said, you can offer to do a chore for someone, or make’s completely up to you as long as it’s NOT over $20!!

One family member to a gift: here’s the list I propose – it’s not etched in stone, we can swap too! But only one gift per person!

Amy takes Susan
Jen takes Mom
Susan takes Jen
Mom takes Gareth
Phil takes Amy
Gareth takes Phil

Wrapping: Apart from Stinky...wrapping paper costs way too much as it is...USE the Sunday Times...if we all do it no one will look cheap, and you can pick an interesting story to wrap it all up in as a bonus!

Lastly, your gift can also be a contribution to the family feast we will have, whether it’s a bottle of wine, ingredients, flowers...

Everyone gets Stinky something...

I know I know ....The Gareth monster is about to pop out of my flesh ;)

But I think this will calm our nerves about spending loads of cash over the holidays.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Nights away


By the end of the year i will have spent just under 100 nights away from New York (mainly with work but with a few holidays chucked in).

Although there is a big downside to this (i.e being away from the one i love) there is actually a pretty good upside! As a non-resident i don't have to pay State Tax on the nights i am out of New York State. Roll on January and a big refund - it will be a few thousand bucks!!!!


But I miss him :(

Monday, December 8, 2008



Well, I thought I was a pretty strong lady and pretty cool for making it through 7 months of ONB BUT when I read an email from our friends who just birthed a beautiful baby boy and it read, "8 Hours of an all natural drug free meditation birth" I thought - no freakin' WAY!!!

I will sleep on an air mattress for 7 months...
I will live with my mother....
I will sleep in a bed with a farting dog...
I will spend no money...

....BUT... an all natural meditative birth, HOLY CRAP, I do NOT know if I could swing that!!

Sunday, December 7, 2008



Bugger. I got my sums wrong and have gone $600 into the red with my checking account.

Fuckity fuck.In the US you get charged $35 per transaction that pushes you into the red.

I phoned them up and it works out i have two transactions i will be getting fined for - my YMCA membership and a Credit Card payment.

I squealed 'UNNNFFFAAAIIIRRRRR" on the phone to a lovely woman from HSBC and as a one time courtesy they will let me off the $70.

Thank you HSBC.

It pays to ask folks. You never know what might happen.

I can't believe it happened. I am so on top of my finances it is unreal. I have learnt my lesson and thankfully it was a free one.


Ding Dong Gareth ;)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Home for the holidays


Thank the Lord for airmiles and Visa renewals!

We are both going back to the UK for Xmas. My flight is being paid for by work as my two year visa is about to run out and Amy's flight is being paid for with airmiles!

Sweet! I much prefer spending my money on presents rather than flights. Speaking of which i need to get on the case with Amy's presents. Time to dig out my notebook where i have been scribbling down all the hints she has been giving me!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Sale Madness


I read in the papers a few days ago about the WalMart employee who was crushed to death unlocking the store doors as 100s of people pilled up to snap up a Black Friday bargain.

Has the world gone mad? Is $10 off a screwdriver set really worth killing someone for? I know times are tough but let's all try and relax a little.

Shoppers crush Wal-Mart worker
Herald News Services
Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Wal-Mart employee in new york state's long island died Friday when a throng of shoppers surged into the store and physically broke down the doors, a police spokesman said.
The 34-year-old man was at the entrance of the valley stream wal-mart store when it opened at 5 a. m. and was knocked to the ground, the police report said.
The exact cause of death was still to be determined by a medical examiner.
Four shoppers, including a 28-year-old pregnant woman, were also taken to local hospitals for injuries sustained in the incident, police said.
the Friday after america's thanksgiving holiday is known as Black Friday and marks what is traditionally the busiest retail day of the year, kicking off the christmas shopping season. U. s. stores across the country opened in the early hours of Friday to offer discounts to consumers hit by a contracting economy. hundreds of shoppers waited before dawn at some locations to secure deals on holiday gifts



We found this article on the BBC website..ta!

Britons 'saving money with sex'

Snuggling under the duvet could also save on those heating bills
As the credit crunch bites, Britons may be turning to sex as a cheap way to pass the time, a charity says.
A YouGov survey of 2,000 adults found sex was the most popular free activity, ahead of window shopping and gossiping.
The Scots were most amorous with 43% choosing sex over other pastimes, compared with 35% in South England.
Aids charity the Terrence Higgins Trust, which published the survey, also welcomed recent figures showing an increase in condom sales.
Around one in 10 respondents to the survey, carried in November, said their favourite free activity was window shopping and 6% chose going to a museum as the cheapest way to pass the time.
But the sexes differed on their priorities, with women preferring to gossip with friends while men had sex firmly at the top of their list.
Safe sex
Publishing the results to coincide with World Aids Day, the Terrence Higgins Trust reminded people to practise safe sex and pointed out that a packet of condoms costs a fraction of the cost of a night out.

Rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections are on the up so when you snuggle down with a partner, make sure you do it safely
Lisa Power, Terrence Higgins Trust
Lisa Power, head of policy, said: We're glad that people are finding ways of relieving some of their credit crunch woes, but if there's one thing it's worth forking out for, it's condoms.
"Alternatively you can get them free from family planning and sexual health clinics.
"Rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections are on the up so when you snuggle down with a partner, make sure you do it safely."
Rebecca Findlay, from the Family Planning Association advised: "If anyone's having more sex at the moment whatever the reason, do think about your contraception, your condoms and any testing you might need for sexually transmitted infections.
"And you can get all of these for free on the NHS."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A way with words


10 great quotes about cash.

"Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons."
Woody Allen

I have never been in a situation where having money made it worse."
Clinton Jones

"All I ask is the chance to prove that money can't make me happy."
Spike Milligan

"Money is something you have to make in case you don't die."
Max Asnas

"What's the use of happiness? It can't buy you money."
Henry Youngman

"The big difference between sex for money and sex for free is that sex for money costs less."
Brendon Francis

"Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination."
Oscar Wilde

"I've got all the money I'll ever need if I die by four o'clock this afternoon."
Henry Youngman

"If there is anyone to whom I owe money, I'm prepared to forget it if they are."
Errol Flynn

"I've been rich and I've been poor: Rich is better."
Sophie Tucker

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Escape Plan


We are moving out!!!!

On January 15th we are moving into a one bedroom sublet in Brooklyn, right next to the beautiful prospect park.

Privacy at last! We have been going out now for 13 months and we have spent more than half of that time with her mum, her sister, her mum's dog and a bedroom door that likes to open by itself! Arghhhh. Finally i can go back to watching telly in the nude!!!!

To help us make up our mind about the move we did a list of pros and cons...


It is only for 3 months
It is fully furnished
She seemed lovely
It is near the subway
It seems quiet
It has everything we need (bike storage, laundry room)
We only have one bill to worry about so it is easy to budget for.
It's a good base for exploring Brooklyn and our future options
There are 3 pretty good supermarkets nearby.


It is $2000
It is small
It feels like a step backwards - It's something I would have lived in at college as a 21 not a 31 year old
It is not near many nice restaurants or bars

We pay Amy's mum $500 a month at the moment so the luxury of having or own place is an extra $1500 per month - $4500 in total. And we just had a bit of good news - AMy has got some freelancing work that will help pay of quite a lot of that so we can still save, save, save!

Ahhhhh Home Sweet Home.

We only have another 6ish weeks to survive in the Upper West Side.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

House sitter


I'm house sitting at my friend Michael's until next week while Gareth is away. He lives like a king!
Apart from a crazy stereo, wash + dryer in the apartment he gets groceries delivered until 10pm
a giant tub and two bathrooms!!! I am in the lap of luxory till next Monday!

He also said I could order groceries on his account for the week...cause I'm taking care of his dog!

What a great break! anyone esle need me to watch their pet from Dec. 17th-26th ???

Monday, December 1, 2008



It is always interesting to see how people stumble across our blog, the weird searches people do, the links people click on etc.

Thanks for the plug 'Evil Yoda' whoever you may be.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Gareth And Amy House Sitting Service


With the holiday season upon us lots of our friends are escaping NYC to travel back home to family or running away from the cold for a well earned break. As a result we have been offered apartments in Gramercy Park, Wall Street and Brooklyn. All of them are lovely and are providing us with a much needed break from the air bed which is bulging in weird ways again (it is definitely the hot water pipe that is effect it).

The only problem with all this house sitting is that it makes it very hard returning to our room at Amy's mum's. The bed has never been so uncomfortable, the walls have never been so close together, the clothes have never been so hard to keep tidy.


Saturday, November 29, 2008



Are your hands cold? Can’t you find your gloves? Are you not wanting to spend money on a new pair? Do what I do and use a pair of socks instead! It is what all the hip young new Yorkers are wearing.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Cheap date


On Friday we are going back to MOMA to enjoy their free admission night and after that we are going to the cinema and using the tickets i got given at work.

Fun and completely free.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Doom and gloom


Our London office laid of 20 people last week. It has been a black and depressing day. Lots of people I worked with back in the UK are now going to have to find new jobs. The stress of bills to pay, a nose diving economy and a tough job market. My thoughts are with them.

We’ve been told that we are OK (for the moment) in NYC but life is pretty stressful especially for all the people who are on work visas like me.

If I get laid off what will happen to me? It might be that I have to leave the country which is not a pleasant thought.

“Hello Mum, Hello Dad – remember me? I’m moving back in!”

At least I know I can survive on very little money. I reckon I could make a redundancy package last a whole year. ONB does come with some benefits.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008



I had a great bit of news today.

I have won a turkey in the raffle at the swimming pool I go to.

It was completely free to enter and they had four family size birds to give away.

I thought the odds were good and I was right!

Unfortunately Amy’s mum had already got a turkey so I’m not exactly share what we are going to do with it! Watch this space to see what we end up doing with it – we are open to suggestions.

Interesting Amy fact: A once said she thought a roast turkey with a carving knife sticking out of it was sexy. Hmmmm where on earth did she get that from?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008



What a treat at work yesterday.

A catering company we use on a regular basis came in and did a tasting menu for us today!

We were bowled over. There was sooooooooo much food – from sushi to chicken satay, from popcorn balls to cookies with our company logo. They had pulled out all the stops and spoilt us completely. What a lovely surprise.

It’s things like this that make my job amazing! Lucky lucky me.

The deserve a plug on the blog.

Monday, November 24, 2008

On the couch with Holly

GARETH AND AMY SAY… The lovely Holly is featuring us on her ‘Frugal 5 Minutes’ section of her blog.

Here’s what we had to say for ourselves…

Tell me a bit about your “lightbulb moment”

AMY SAYS… Gareth was really the one who came up with the plan to pay off the loans. I had decided to forget about them because it was too overwhelming to think about paying it all off myself. Not to mention my mother’s advice, “Pay the minimum and let it die with you.”Anyway, after Gareth's initial shock, we were at a crazy Japanese concert in Brooklyn, PeelanderZ, drunk, upset about the debt and being really silly, when I said, “Well, we could always move into my mom’s back room, ha ha ha.” That’s when Gareth's eyes opened and he replied with, “We could!” And we did...

GARETH SAYS… As soon as Amy told me about the size of her debt I went into ‘fix-it’ mode but the trouble is I had no idea how to fix. I talked to my family and friends and everyone’s response was the same: “Bugger”. The lightbulb went on one night over a beer when I suggested we camp on Amy’s Mum’s terrace for 6 months! Amy thought I was joking – I wasn’t. Operation Night Brace was born that night but thankful we didn’t end up camping on a balcony on the 18th floor of New York apartment block! Instead we ended up leaving in a tiny room bt at least it had four walls and a ceiling.

What made you decide to start to blog?

AMY SAYS… We wanted a record of our journey together, also an outlet to vent to, well, to everyone!

GARETH SAYS… My sister had already been doing her blog for about a year. I loved reading her’s so thought that we’d start one too to keep everyone up to date with how we were getting on. It has become a great outlet – we can make light of the things that upset us and offer encouragement for others out there. It started as a chore but has now become a pleasure.

A lot of personal finance bloggers talk about keeping their “eyes on the prize” – What’s your prize?

AMY SAYS… Being Debt free! And with that comes a lot of emotional freedom. We won’t be held down by anything really. We don’t have kids or own a house so we will be free to make future choices wisely not bogged down by anything.

GARETH SAYS… For me the prize is the greatest prize of all – a great and happy future. I found the woman I want to grow old with and didn’t want anything to get in the way of the family we will build.

What’s your top tip for saving money?

AMY SAYS… Be very very aware of your money! Believe it or not most money is spent unintentionally, $10 here $5 there. When you are hyper aware of every penny you spend it is much easier to have a wad of cash in the bank at the end of the month.

GARETH SAYS… Let people around you know what you are trying to do. It is a bit like being on a diet. If you tell people they will hopefully not keeping inviting you out for dinner or waving pizza in your face. My friends and family know that we can’t afford to do things so they don’t ask us. Having to say ‘No’ all the times makes us and them feel bad so it’s best no to get in that situation in the first place.

Recommend a blog that you can’t live without?

AMY SAYS… I have no idea..? Gareth???

GARETH SAYS… Hmmm I think my sister would kill me if I didn’t pick her’s. It’s a great slice of English life.

What’s the first thing you are going to spend money on once Operation Night Brace is over?

AMY SAYS… Buy Gareth kitchen equipment, get a pedicure, oy my feet need it and maybe a celebratory feast for everyone who has helped us, emotionally and financially.

GARETH SAYS… Probably a nice pair of socks. Our room is so small it is a wonder that anything can go missing in it but it does. I have just 5 pairs at the moment and one pair is rather holey!
It’s weird – once you get out of the habit of spending your realise how little you truly need in life. It’s just stuff and at the end of the day you can’t take it with you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Amy's Apple Pie


Amy's apple pie! If you ask her nicely she might just tell you how she does it and it's cheap!!! AMy?


Blah Blah Blah

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Completely nutty


"Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being "in love" which any of us can convince ourselves we are.
Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.
- Captain Corelli's Mandolin.

Where's Amy?


Can you spot her? And yes our room really is that small!

Monday, November 17, 2008

“I might look 31 but I’m actually a child with a facial hair problem”


We were a bit naughty two weekends ago.

Amy desperately wanted to see the new Charlie Kaufman film.

So she brought tickets online and said we were children so we got seats for $6.75 rather than $10.20.

She didn’t tell me what she had done until we got to the cinema. I started crapping my pants – ohhhh the embarrassment of being caught and shamed in public. Amy didn’t seem to care though – she was all ready to blame computer error.

We collected the tickets from the machine. Smiled nicely at the guy collecting tickets. And walked straight in. Result!!! Shame the film was a bit rubbish ☹ Great start, self indulgent and long winded ending.

We spent the money we saved on going for a drink afterwards. Ahhh the good old days drinking in a bar rather than drinking cheap wine at home on our inflatable matress.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

6 Girls and Gareth


Drum roll please... not only are we living with my mother and the barking dog, but my little sister, my older sister and my NIECE now!!! That's 6 girls and Gareth in a Manhatten apartment (There is absolutely NO more testosterone left in my immediate family, even the dog ;) Holy Crap! Unfortunately, my older sister may be splitting with her husband of 14 years :( It's a very sad moment but if she is unhappy I say come on over and join the party. And yes Gareth will be missing the festivities as he will be on many a business trip in the lap-o-luxury ;)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A bit whiffy


My deodorant ran out a few days ago and I have been trying to get to pay day tomorrow before I buy another one. I’m fine about doing this but I’m not so sure about the people I’m spending time with.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A one day suspension of ONB


Today is sadly my Grandma's funeral so we have come back to the UK for the weekend.

It is going to be a sad day.

Thankfully my Grandma got to meet Amy quite a few times and thought she was lovely.

She had lived a great life and went very quickly in the end.

It is a shame she won't be around to see us get married but we will be thinking of her on that day and in fact every day going forward.

Good bye Grandma.

Thank you for always being there for me.


Thursday, November 13, 2008



When we agreed to extend ONB to the end of the year i had no idea of my work schedule - no i do and Amy is accusing me of abandoning her on the air mattress as i am going to away rather a lot with trips to Denver, San Francisco, Toronto and the UK twice. I'm away about 4 weeks. Which is great for me (although i'll miss Amy completely) as i'll be in nice hotels and terrible for Little A as she will be all alone on the air mattress with her mother and the barking dog.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

IIY = Iron It Yourself


In the old days i loved getting my stuff washed and cleaned at the dry cleaners. The shirts would come back all folded and wrapped which made it feel like you were putting on a new shirt each day. It was pretty cheap - around $1.50 to $2.00 a shirt. But in the spirit of ONB that has stopped. I wash the shirts myself and when i am away on business meeting clients I make sure I get up a bit earlier to iron my shirt for the day. My mum would be proud of me. So far i have yet to burn a shirt and reckon I have shoved tons of cash.

It's the little amounts that add up.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008



Gareth has been making the most delicious, sausage stew. Technically I'm a vegetarian, however I just pick out the sausage and east the rest ;)

Any way, I have brought a load of stew, a loaf of bread and a sack of cheese to eat for the next few weeks ;) for FREE, well cause Gareth paid for all the supplies ;) Thanks G!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cinema snacks


Why buy expensive popcorn and soda at the cinema when you can take your own curry to eat!!!


Because the entire movie theater will stink like curry, doh, oh well ;) xx

Sunday, November 9, 2008

BAR be-Q


We were walking along the beach one morning and we found a barbecue shack... literally built out of existing trees in the sand and what looked like over-sized black garbage bags to protect from the rain. We sat down and were greeted by a smiling friendly face, that spoke no english. But we motioned that we'd like a plate of whatever she had.

The most delicious barbecue I've ever had for a lot less then a crappy hoagie at a deli in NY. Cervezas included!!

We ate there almost everyday on our adventure!

Rice an beans, pasta salad, chicken, porko all of it!

Saturday, November 8, 2008



Yes I've been clipping away. Especially for CVS. I have a care card and every-time they print me out one of their giant receipts it has $10 off coupon for every purchase over $50. So, I buy in bulk, it's cheaper and pay for my purchases every time I hit $50, so I can use the next $10 coupon!!

Yep, the people behind me in line want to kill me but I spend $80 to everyone else's $100. Yehaw!

Friday, November 7, 2008



When we got of the public bus in Manuel Antonio ($4) in Costa Rica, Gareth sent me off on a mission to find us a place to stay. I grabbed the guide book and off I went. I went about a mile up hill and stopped into every hotel, hostel & bungalow along the way.

I walked back down hill through the back alley and continued to stop into every and any place available. Near the National Park was a small but cute place. The door was open and I walked in. The normal price was $115 a night for a king bed, a hammock, hot water, and a pool ;)

And so my haggle began. I got them down to $50 a NIGHT! Woo hoo... including breakfast!!

After our fantastic stay there for 5 nights we tallied up the bill, and 'the guy at the desk', now known to us as Jonathan, decided to only charge us $40 a night because we were so much fun and help at bowling night ;)

After a week in paradise we ended up spending about $20 a day each and felt like kings.

We are very lucky.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Best money I've ever spent


Today it has been one whole year since we met!!!

November 5th, 2007

It feels like years and years ago - maybe that's just the sleep deprivation talking ;)

Who woulda-thunk-it-ey?

We made it!!!

My $40 bucks on was the best money I've ever spent.

A great day!


Today is a very special day.

Not because of the elections but because it is mine and Amy's first anniversary!

Woo hoo.

12 months since we met and six months since Operation Night Brace began!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Cheapest Bowling Alley In The World


While away we discovered the cheapest bowling alley in the world. It was sooooo cheap it was free!!!

Mine and Amy's eyes lit up at this and we rushed along for an evening of smashing pins.

We quickly discovered why it was free though. You had to put the pins up yourself!

I have never sweated so much in all my life. It is hard hard work. We were exhausted after 2 games and head home aching.

I reckon the automatic pin setter was probably invented the day after ten pin bowling was invented.

Monday, November 3, 2008



So I've taken on a lot more responsibly at work and Gareth has helped me enormously! He's helping me be a manager of a small but ever expanding team, he's helping me brainstorm on lots of ideas for big clients, he's helping me keep my head when all goes wrong!

He's a prince for this.

Bottom line is - two idea generating heads are better then one = ensuring a giant bonus and another raise come December :)

So far it's this space.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Monday Breakfasts


They started serving feasts on Monday morning at work. Bagels with cream cheese, muffins, and orange juice. So today I had two bagels with cream cheese and took all the left over orange juice for Gareth. My bag is really heavy and I figure we'll definitely need the vitamins in the OJ to help us steer clear of the osteoporosis we'll be developing from living on an air mattress for 8 months ;)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Amy learns a new trade...


If all else fails...

Friday, October 31, 2008

To do list (Post ONB)


ONB means you have to put a few things off.

Here is my list of stuff i have to do when this is all over...

Donate $100 to 'kids with cameras' as a belated wedding present to Rachel and Chris

Give back the lost property goggles that the YMCA have let me use since i lost mine

Give back the lost property swimming cap that the YMCA have let me use since i lost mine

Buy my mum a better birthday present next year

Hmmm I think it is it for now, I might revisit this in a few weeks time and add to it.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"With love from Gareth & Amy"


When you don't have much cash you can't dazzle people with expensive birthday presents. You can however dazzle them with thoughtful presents. Here's what we managed to put together for her niece who was 6 this month...

A certificate for a day 'Bug hunting with Gareth and Amy in Central Park'
Cost to Amy and Gareth - Free except from the food we will buy for an autumnal picnic

A magnifying glass for looking a bugs
Cost to Amy and Gareth - $7.99 we funked it up with a special 'Isabell' sticker on it

A bug spotting notebook for drawing what we find
Cost to Amy and Gareth - free, we are recycling a gift and again funked it up with a special sticker

A crazy bug construction kit
Cost to Amy and Gareth - free, left over from a project in May with Hasbro

She was over-the-moon with the present!!! It is going to be a fun day bug hunting!

For Amy's younger sister Susan we created a 'Grow your brain (not your ass)' kit - amy added the 'not your ass' bit to the title! We filled 5 test tubes in a test tube rack with little gift certificates. It looked brilliant.

Thoughtfulnss makes the difference between a good present and a great one and the best thing of all is 'thoughtfulness' is free!!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Great Escape


If you have been a regular visitor to this blog then you will be well aware that Amy and I need a break from it all. And that's just what we are about to take.

Drum roll please - we are off to Costa Rica!!!!

I have to go there for work and Amy managed to find a return flight to San Jose from JFK for just $400 (that's easyJet prices!!). We are going to find a shack on the beach to crash. We've looked into prices and we should be able to get somewhere nice for $40 a night.

To fund the trip Amy has been taking on all the little bits of freelancing she can (making wedding invites and editing films) and all these little pieces have added up to a rather big amount! So off we go to escape our prison cell and the New York cold.

Here's to cheap food, cold beers and a big dollop of privacy.


We are going to collapse, relax, recharge and try, just try to do Costa Rica on a $20 a day budget...

Then we should be able to push tthrough the last leg of OBN!!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Blasts from the past


The last two weeks has felt a bit like a reunion party! Lots of people i haven't seen in ages have popped up again in my life.

Orri was in town from Iceland. I haven't seen him in 18 months. He is now a dad and another one is on the way.

Amy, a very close friend who moved back to Canada 4 years, called me up having reconnected thanks to facebook.

Vicky, my old flatmate from London called to say howdee.

I'm not exactly sure what they made of the whole ONB scheme. I have always lead a bit of a nutty life so i don't think anyone was that surprised by it all.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"I think i'm going to cry"


We were talking last night about what we are going to do when all this is over and we shake of the $20 daily allowance like dead skin. I can't wait to go and see things - shows, exhibitions, bands, everything, i can't wait to eat in restaurants, i can't wait to go to bars and get wasted, i can't wait to go food shopping and not have to pick the cheapest things and do tons of sums in my head to make sure i haven't spent too much. Ultimately - i can't wait to actual feel like i live in NYC rather than be someone who is just looking in from the outside.

As we talked about this Amy said she was going to cry so we quickly changed the subject.

Saturday, October 25, 2008



Yep I did it. I worked out the sums and realized that if Gareth and I stay at my moms and extend ONB until April - one year exactly from when we started - we will have paid off all of the loans in their entirety.

Opps is right I think I sent Gareth into a tail spin once it popped out of my mouth,

I just thought, fuck how the hell are we going to pay off the final $39,000 once we've moved out and on?

Upside is - starting completely from scratch in April - 4 months from when we decided to crash out would save us potentially 2 years of giving away bonuses and tax returns etc.

Down side is - we might kill each other, get some spinal disease, or just completely snap if we don't move out in January!

I think we'll take it day by day, month by month and see what happens.

(Shhhh...Gareth turned purple when I proposed this to him..Opps)

April fools!


Amy has done some more sums - there are a lot of sums in ONB - and she told me that if we stayed until April we will have paid off the entire $180,000 debt.

My heart sunk. That is such a long way off. Have i got to strength to go the distance - it is a bit like entering into a half marathon and then finding out you actually have to run a full one.

Reasons to stay until April...

1. We will be 100% debt free
2. The housing market may have bottomed out so we can swoop in and start the next phase of our lives together
3. The Upper West Side is rather quite nice and safe - it is growing on me

Reasons not to stay until April...

1. We might go completely mental
2. We might be crippled for life from spending a year on an air bed
3. Amy's mum might not want us to stay another 4 moths, we've already extended it by 2

I think we should take it month by month in 2009 and see how it goes.

We are already a lot better off than we were. A little debt is easier to carry than a lot.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A poem for Amy...


Help me help me, I’m feeling all confused
Things are perplexing, my mind’s blown a fuse

My brains filled with jelly and my thoughts are a jumble
I can’t speak properly my words are all mumbled

I can’t concentrate on anything, not one thing
My hearts beating faster than a humming bird’s wings

My legs are all wobbly I can’t walk straight
All because of a girl called Amy, who’s my best mate

Wakey wakey


The thing i still miss most in the world of ONB is a good night's sleep.

I can fall asleep quite quickly at night but for Amy it is a struggle. To help her go off into the land of nod she watches TV until she passes out which means i'm now being awaken at 5am to the sounds of black and white westerns - "Get out of town" "BLAM BLAM BLAM" "Ohhh your my hero" "There's a trouble heading this way" etc.

I'm a bit of an early bird but these 5am starts are killing me.

When we get our own place we are going to buy a TV with a timer!

So so tired - Zzzzzzzzz

Thursday, October 23, 2008


To get round our ever expanding inflatable bed we now have to walk like a crab - there is now just a 6 inch gap to get round to the wardrobe.

You have to twist your feet out so they are pointing in different directions and shuffle along.

I swear my knees feel like they are going to snap.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Free stationery


On the rare occasion we go out for dinner I have started keeping the pens they give you to sign the check with. Technically I don’t think this is theft as the pens are covered in restaurant logos and phone numbers. I’m pretty certain they want you to keep it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

CNN Debt news


This woman had credit card debt...



Amy can’t stand going Dutch – she thinks it is cheap. I don’t have a problem with it as all the money comes from the same place – what’s mine is her’s and what’s her’s is mine. Perhaps it is a male/female thing.

I totally agree that all our money comes from the same place - making 'going dutch' worthless. I just hate the awkward moment when two people pull out of both wallets - always have. Also, I don't think I've ever been in a relationship where money is shared, so it's all a little new to me ;)

Monday, October 20, 2008


I wonder if the person who googled this was disappointed when they came to our blog!!!!

Staff benefits


I recently went on a work trip to Johnson and Johnson's headquarters in New Jersey. Before i left they kindly let me visit the staff shop - it was Operation Night Brace paradise! Everything they make was on sale for under half price - RESULT!!!

I brought huge bottles of mouthwash for $3.60, face cream and spot stuff for amy, loads of good quality toothbrushes for just $1.40. I walked away with a huge bag of stuff that should last us until Xmas and the bill came to just $53.80!

Lots of companies have staff shops so my advice would be to ask round your friends to see what deals they can get you if you are ever considering doing your own Operation Night Brace.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Our new favorite meal


It has been ages since I posted a recipe so I thought I’d share this one that Amy and I have bee enjoying as the nights get colder.

Chirizo Bean Stew (can be made for about $15 and will last two people, two days)

Gently fry…
One pack of chirozos chopped up into pieces ($5.50)
One onion (stolen from Amy’s mum)
One green pepper (much cheaper than red, orange or yellow for some reason)

Stir in…
One tin of chopped tomatoes ($1.80)
One tin of black beans ($0.95)
One tin of other beans – whatever is cheapest
One sweet potato chopped into chunks
A sprinkling of chilli flakes

If you have some…
Add wine

If you don’t…
Add water

Cook until all the bits are soft. Serve with bread and enjoy.

This meal gets better over time so it makes a great packed lunch the next day.

Saturday, October 18, 2008



I receive an email every week from this guy who just got a book deal worth $23,000 if he sells 10,000 copies. Here is the summary of his book...

The Student Loan Scam: The Most Oppressive Debt in U.S. History—and How We Can Fight Back Alan Michael Collinge. Beacon, $22.95. Think credit-card debt is a problem? Take a look at the lives ruined through the corporate thug tactics, usurious fees and vicious harassment employed by some of the nation's largest student-loan providers in this shocking exposé from Collinge, founder of The author had a manageable $38,000 in loans—until he missed a single payment. Fees and charges quickly piled up, and his debt mushroomed to more than $100,000. The author reveals that since lenders make far more money from defaulted loans than they do from borrowers in good standing, they go to extraordinary—and illegal—lengths to force borrowers into default. There are currently more than five million defaulted loans on record, and incredibly, student loans are the only type of loan in U.S. history to be nondischargable in bankruptcy. The author exposes the engineers (and profiteers) of this predatory system and urges Congress to restore standard consumer protections to student loans, concluding with a call to arms for progressive changes, refinancing rights and a plethora of practical advice for borrowers. Comprehensive and stirring, this extraordinary book is whistle-blowing at its finest. (Feb.)

Here is his mass email...

Hey Guys,

This is the link to the Publisher's Weekly thing about the book. Please comment on this article, this will encourage book people to put it on their shelves.

Im definitely not doing this for the money. I am pretty sensitive to that attack. My publisher has told me that if the book sells 10,000 copies, that would be considered a smashing success. Based on this "best case" scenario, I would personally earn about $23,000 for the effort.

Just so you all know...

Having said that, some very important policy makers may well read this book, if we work hard to get it our there. So I hope that you will keep it in mind.

Best Regards,
Alan M. Collinge

Thursday, October 16, 2008



October 31st is fast approaching. This was the original deadline for ONB but now we have extended it we have another 8 weeks to go. We can do it. We can do it!!! And rather than owing $100,000 at the end of it we will (hopefully) owe a paltry $40,000ish.

$38,200.00 to be exact (I'm the sums lady in this relationship ;)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008



Things are going a bit slow on the wedding planning front at the moment. We seem to have hundreds of other things that pop up and get in the way – I think they call it ‘life’. We have however compiled our own recipe of what will make a great “Amy & Gareth” wedding…

• Handmade and heartfelt
• Laughter and tears
• Unstuffy and stress free
• No wedding list - People’s presence will be the presents
• Simple not showy
• Elegant but fun

PS We have had an interesting offer for the wedding venue – our new office in the East Village!!! It would be free and is in a great location and simply beautiful inside. I’m game if Amy is. Watch this space.

PPS I came across an interesting story on the BBC the other day...

"A couple spent three months collecting and recycling litter to pay for their honeymoon flights.

John and Ann Till, from Petersfield, in Hampshire, took thousands of cans and bottles to a recycling centre at a nearby Tesco supermarket.

For every four recycled items, they earned a reward point which was then converted into BA air miles.

They amassed 36,000 miles, which they used to fly back in business class from their US honeymoon.
Enough rubbish

The Tills came up with the idea while buying petrol at Tesco in Havant, where an automated recycling unit that gives loyalty-card points had been installed for a trial period.

They had enough money for a Queen Mary 2 cruise to New York but could not afford the flights home, so the couple started scouring the streets of their home town for rubbish, clocking up the miles for their dream honeymoon."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008



I was recently away on a work trip and within two hours of getting off the plane I had two men trying to rob me at knifepoint. It was broad daylight and on a beach. I was a bit shocked – this was the first time anything like this had happened to me. I always wondered how I would react and now I know…

I was sitting down when the men approached me. As they grabbed me and pulled the knife I stood up and pushed them away. I’m guessing they didn’t think I looked as big as I am sitting down. They were a bit taken aback by my reaction and let me just walk away (rather quickly). My wallet was still mine and so was my camera.

When I told the clients I was there to meet about what had happened they couldn’t believe how lucky I had been. I realize that what I did wasn’t the smartest thing – they could have decided to teach me a lesson. Gulp!!! My reaction was pure reflex and born out of the fact that when you don’t have much (which is certainly what life is like on ONB) you fight for what you do have as hard as you can.

I’m still a bit shaken by the whole thing but there was one benefit… I told the American Airlines woman when I checked in for my return flight and she gave me a highly prized fire exit seat because she felt sorry for me. Woooo hoooo.

The Beast That Swallows Its Young


Monday, October 13, 2008



Last Friday I lost my wallet. But before I even knew it had gone the very kind person who found it had emailed me, posted a message on the blog and left me a voicemail!!!

What a very very kind person. They saved me from a weekend of canceling cards and replacing IDs.

Sunday, October 12, 2008



Gareth and I will have survived living in New York spending no more then $12,750 for the entire year!!! Thats including rent, food, doctors toiletries - all of it.

How I figured this out ... basically I totaled what Gareth and I make in a year after taxes.. subtracted the amount we will have paid off in April (I year from when ONB started) and then divided by 12. Which gives you $1,062.00 a month for two people = $17 a day on average - less then our proposed $20.



Saturday, October 11, 2008



My mum was right to be worried about us getting fat doing ONB because we are!!!! You’d think not having much money would make loosing weight easy but it is having the reverse effect for two reasons…

1. You don’t turn any offer of food down
2. You eat everything so as to waste nothing

These two things combined are a deadly combination. My dream of hitting 200lbs by Xmas is looking unlikely ☹

Pants - big elasticated pants!!!


When I met Gareth he said, 'We'll fatten you up, I'm a feeder!" AND HE MEANT IT! Both of us grab every little crumb we can get because we're not sure when the next crumb will appear. I pack twice as much food in the morning just in case I run out and I eat it all!!



Work means I’m away quite a lot at the moment. The best thing about this is that I’m having a lot of no spend days as things like meals are paid for. It also means I get to sleep in a proper bed. The only thing missing is Amy.

Sometimes i miss Gareth so much it feels like I could burst! But I am happy he is out an about having fun, changing the world, doing his thing.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Similar to the "he said/she said" thing we've got going on here, but if you check it out it's kinda genius...

Thursday, October 9, 2008



So far this month I have taken on 4 very small freelance jobs - none of them paid a lot but they added up!

$2,230.00 = EXTRA this month!!

Woo hoo!



I was on the train this morning being pushed an prodded, when I started thinking...I don't normally do that, normally I'm too busy jockeying for a seat before I can think about anything ;) Anyway, this morning I thought that when ONB ends, which is pretty near, my spending habits will probably NOT change that much.

The things I would like to spend money on are:

A cab home from a late night out
I'd pay for a meal out with friends
I'd buy a sweater or two for winter

Apart from the small things...I've learned that sometimes I spend needlessly - rushing about in busy New York.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008



Love is being somewhere truly amazing in the world and finding yourself wishing away every minute of it so that you can get home for a hug.


Love is also being somewhere miserable (like working late) and finding yourself wishing away every minute of it so that you can get back home for a hug ;)



Every time I phone home at the moment my mum, sister and dad are all asking: “Is Amy OK? She seems really miserable on the blog at the moment.”

To help put their minds at rest I decided to interview Amy…

GARETH SAYS… Are you miserable Amy?

Not at all - I can finally say 'I'm lucky in love :)' I have never been happier in my whole life.

GARETH SAYS… What’s the nicest thing that has happened to you recently?

Gareth bought a wood family home, a bracelet and a mug from his last work trip. They were all pretty cheap but filled with love.

GARETH SAYS… What have you got to look forward to in the near future?

Costa Rica - woo hoo. I am so excited!!!

GARETH HOPES the folks back home can stop worrying now.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008



If you have ever seen footage of the polar bears that go mad in captivity then you’ll have an idea of how we sometimes feel in our bedroom/prison cell. It is so unbelievably small. I can’t believe we have been living in it since May 1st – just over 5 solid months in a room 3 meters by 2 meters. The average size of a prison cell in America is 8 feet by 12 feet but at least we don’t have bars on the windows. (5 months is how long Martha Stewart got sentenced to jail for)

I have made a note to do an MTV ‘Cribs’ style video of it and post it so you can see what life is like in our little backroom in the Upper West Side.


$14.05 a day in interest at %5.875 locked in fixed rate.

You know what this means?

On my $20 a day budget - I only have $5.95 a day left!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Call me naive, opps I meant, call me asinine, dense, dull, foolish, idiotic, ignorant, inane, inarticulate, moronic, mum, mute, pantomimic, senseless, silent, speechless, stupid, taciturn, unintelligent, unintentional, voiceless...RIGHT....or blockheaded, dense, doltish, hebetudinous, obtuse, thickheaded, thick-witted girl cause IGNORANCE IS BLISS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fairytales Vs nightmares


It’s weird…

I often think we are in a fairy tale – with heroes, love and romance.
Amy often thinks we are in a nightmare – with chains and nasty guards.

I have a tendency to look at the big picture and be blissfully unaware of the little things that Amy seems to focus in on.

I’m of the school of thought that if 90% is right then that’s pretty good.
Amy is of the school of thought that if 10% is wrong then that’s pretty awful.

Somewhere between the two of us lies the truth and what is really happening.

I guess we are on a quest for balance.

Monday, October 6, 2008



I've been trying to keep s under $100K but the interest keeps pushing us over. So every other day I pay the interest...approx. $10 and it moves back just under. I feel like I'm playing tug-of-war with the Government!!!

Sunday, October 5, 2008



I just read that JK Rowling makes £5 every second! She made $300 million dollars last year. There is gold in them there children’s books.

I have been playing around with a few kid book ideas myself. It’s been great fun and hasn’t cost a cent. I don’t think I’ve got a Harry Potter just yet, just a few weird poems that may or may not be suitable for kids. See what you think…

There once was a girl who tasted too good

Her ear wax was cheesy and her arms chocolate pud

Her fingers were fishy and her legs were like chicken

For a walking pantry was she often mistaken

When you taste so good you have to beware

Of hungry villagers waving forks in the air

A large group had gathered one night, quite late

Each with a fork and a large dinner plate

“Get off, get off. Get out of my way.”

“Please step aside – I am not a buffet”

“She smells delicious – she smells divine”

“She’s going to taste lovely washed down with some wine.”

“I’ve salt”, “I’ve pepper” and “I’ve got steak sauce.”

“We’ll start at her toes and work up course by course”

First toes, then feet, then ankle, then leg

Twas the most succulent banquet they’d ever been fed

“Stop stop, please really - you really must stop.”

“Please leave me one leg so at least I can hop.”

But would they listen? Would they heck.

They went on feasting right up to her neck.

Her legs, her arms, her stomach – all gone.

Didn’t they know eating young girls was quite wrong?

“Enough. Enough. Let’s call it a day!”

“Just leave me my head, turn around - walk away.”

“But the head’s the best bit – we’ve saved it to last.”

And with that they dived in and gobbled it fast.

The hair cotton candy and a nose made of toffee

“Burp” said a villager. “Anyone fancy coffee?”



Milestones are great things to have in a project especially one that seems never ending.

Here are the official milestones of Operation Night Brace…

Paid off the entire Private Loan – Done
Brought the debt under $100k – Done
Paid off half the original debt ($90k) – Soon
Brought the loan down to the original Public Loan sans interest ($86k) – Soonish
Got a zero in our balance – Long way off

Watch this space xx

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Japanese gardens


I heard a lovely fact yesterday but have no idea if it is true.

Apparently in the highly manicured Japanese gardens they deliberately leave one weed to make you appreciate just how beautiful the rest of the garden is.

In life you need the dark to appreciate the light, the cold to appreciate the warm.

The debt is our weed and slowly and in a weird way we are coming to love what it has shown us.

Friday, October 3, 2008

What's the secret?


The statistics on relationships are depressing: in California alone, the average marriage lasts just 5 years. Nationwide, 43% of marriages end within 15 years. Second and third marriages end in divorce 60-70% of the time. Clearly, how we handle our relationships is not working. And yet, 94% of young adults in one study said that having a good marriage is extremely important to them. So, what can you do?

We researched much of current the literature on relationships and have condensed the results into just a few key concepts. These principles seem to be the common denominators in happy, successful marriages. See how many you can identify in your relationship.

Here is the link to the 10 top tips: but check out the headliner ad next to the 10 secrets!!



If only we had been quicker we could have been rich!!!

Check this out.

It a cheeky but inspiring bit of cybersquatting.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Project on student debt?


For Americans of all socio-economic backgrounds, borrowing has become a primary way to pay for higher education. The Project on Student Debt works to increase public understanding of this trend and the implications for our families, economy, and society. Recognizing that loans play a critical role in making college possible, the Project's goal is to identify cost-effective solutions that expand educational opportunity, protect family financial security, and advance economic competitiveness.

Borrowers Look Back
FACT – The percentage of former students reporting that they would have borrowed less if they
had to do it again increased from 31% in 1991, to 45% in 1997, to 54% in 2002.

FACT – More than 40% of college graduates who don’t pursue graduate school blame student
loan debt.

FACT – People with undergraduate debt are much less likely to get a PhD that those without
undergraduate debt. Nearly three fourths (72%) of U.S. doctorate recipients who earned their
degrees between July 1, 2003, and June 30, 2004 had zero undergraduate debt. Just 10% of
doctorate recipients had undergraduate debt of more than $20,000.

Fuck I still want to get my PhD at Harvard - I probably shouldn't be telling Gareth this ;)


I received this letter today...I couldn't have said it any better! Except for the sign off - "Please Donate" ;)

Hey guys,

I know everyone is in a panic, or near panic due to the recent attempt by the banks to get a $700 billion bailout from the federal government. We can expect that student loan companies like Sallie Mae will be holding their hands out for a piece of this free government money for making highly irrresponsible loans.

If anyone needs assistance from the federal government, it is us. Put it this way: $700 billion would pay off the student loans of EVERYONE in the entire country. Think of the econmic stimulus that this would create. Instead, the banks have hijacked Congress into believing that their interests should come first, and I fully expect this bailout plan to pass, if not tonight, then certainly in the coming weeks. Where does that leave us?

Now is the time for us to stick up for ourselves, guys. The banks have hijacked Congress. Their $100 million lobbying machine has descended upon Washington D.C. like a swarm of locusts, and we can fully expect that they will have their way. Both presidential candidates have said that they support such a bailout. Home prices have devalued by about 20%. If we all woke up one morning to find that our assets have devalued by 20% we would find a way to get through it without demanding a bailout from the federal government. Evidently, the banks ne4ed more help than the average American citizen.

Ok. Fine. That's great. I have no problem with the banks getting their bailout. However: This MUST come with a reinstatement of standard consumer protections for student loans. We hyave been victimized by the predatory student loan industry for far too long, and it is time for Congress to listen to US, not the BANKS.

Are you people hearing me?

Get out there. Call a reporter. Make them feel your paijnl. This is so important right now, I can't tell you.

Right now, all we have on the docket is a couple of pieces coming out in the Seattle Times on Sunday and Monday. That's all I know about right now. What can you do in your area to make a story happen?

Alan M. Collinge

Please Donate to the PAC, go to

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Do the math


I signed up blindly not fully understanding WTF I was getting into. If i'd only know then what I know aware and do the math!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

This is what I do in my spare time

I make hundreds of these..they are all over my desk...all over my studio floor, I'm a psycho ;)

Monday, September 29, 2008

We are prepared

"You doing this in a credit crunch too is all the more impressive. Imagine when the whole thing crashes down at least you and amy will be able to adapt much better than most."

I guess he has a point. We will make a fortune counseling people on adjusting their lives to live on $20 a day

Yep... but what will happen to student borrowers after the Big Bail Out? With my luck they'll put a 'bankruptcy clause for student borrowers' in right at the moment we're about to pay everything off!! They pulled the last one out just before I graduated - I would have declared bankruptcy immediately if it didn't change and just about now my credit would be officially cleared - Bah Humbug!

Time for some...



Sunday, September 28, 2008



These are our differences, in black and white, cut and pasted together from famous movie quotes:

Amy: Should we let it breathe?
Gareth: It hasn't breathed for fifty years, it's dead. Let's just drink it!

Gareth: The Luck is gone, the brain is shot,
Amy: but the LOANS we still got!

Amy: I'm willing to start at the bottom.
Gareth: You're aiming too high - we're below the bottom!

Gareth: Listen, I'm sorry I called you a bitch.
Amy: Why? I am a bitch.

Gareth:I had a premoniton that I was gonna meet someone when I came down here.
Amy: You still got time, you know

Gareth:You are in training my dear.
Amy: In training for what?

Gareth: I have no regrets in life.
Amy: My regret in life is that I am not someone else ;)

Gareth:Education should be free!
Amy: Students achieving Oneness will eventually move on to Twoness.
Gareth: If they're lucky, and you my dear are very very lucky!

Saturday, September 27, 2008



Yep that's right I have a bad ass case of it. I used to take sleeping pills but they made me feel like I should be wearing a long silk robe with tigers printed on it, holding a scotch and hitting on some prepubescent boy. So my doctor recommended that I take Benadryl. It is NOT cheap...but the good news is that they supply it at work for free so every month I grab a handful and sleep like a log.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Buying your bride


I found this on line when I was searching for single rich dwarf (just kidding gareth ;)

"Indeed, most people tend to view the amount of money they spend while dating as an indicator of a long-term future together, said Catherine Surra, a professor and chair of the department of human ecology at the University of Texas who studies the development of romantic unions, including marriage. This is especially true for men, she noted.

"The data show that their commitment depends more on tangible and financial investments," Surra said. "It could be that men pay more attention to that sort of thing than women, and it could be that men are investing more than women."

Those first few months of dating are prime splurging opportunities, said the University of Washington's Schwartz. To impress their dates, men will do such things as ordering a bottle of the restaurant's most expensive wine or tipping lavishly — even if they can't afford it. Women typically respond positively to these gestures, she said. Money essentially serves as a "subterranean language" between couples that is never spoken but is understood by both people, she said.

Still, there is a limit to how much people can spend. And when they finally decide to tie the knot, men may be even happier than women. "They can't afford to date for much longer," said Schwartz."

Yep, I'd say that sounds about right ;)

It’s all in her head


The only thing we have to show for the $180,000 is what’s inside Amy’s head. That brain is pretty valuable. I’m thinking of getting her to walk round in a crash helmet to make sure it stays safe or we could just backcomb her hair to make sure it is well padded.

That brain is valuable. Of course all brains are valuable but there is only one I’m prepared to live in a cell for xxx

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Weight lifting and test taking


Gareth and I were in an argument last week, when he said, "Amy, I feel as though I'm taking a never-ending test, and just when I feel as though I've done brilliantly, I find I've scored an F."

I said, "Well, I feel like a weight lifter and when I finally get the weights in the air someone punches me in the stomach."

Weight lifting and test taking.

We have both given everything we've got, whether it be money, love, support etc.

According to our records we have survived:

- Living with my mother
- Living on an air mattress for 5 months
- Having absolutely no money
- Living in a room you can barely get in and out of
- Paying just under $90K
- Saying 'no' to almost every costly event in nyc

So why do we both feel like we're failing?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'd run in the other direction


Someone once told me (WELL MANY PEOPLE HAVE SAID) that if they found out that their 'girlfriend/boyfriend' owed $180K in debt of any kind, they'd break up immediately and run the other way.

To which Gareth said, "Well, we all know what I did.'

That makes him a prince.

But what does that make me?

I have now been equated to:

a) a heavy drug user
b) a wife who racked up her credit card bills while her husband slaved away at two jobs
c) a ding-dong damsel in de-stress

I assure you I am none of the above ;)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A loan, a gift or something else?


The $33,500 I gave Amy a few months ago has a tendency to rear it’s head every now and then mainly because we haven’t agreed what it is. It all happened in a bit of a whirl. A check was written, a check was cashed.

Is it a loan to be repaid? Is it a gift?

Amy hates ‘owing’ me so I came up with a solution…

It’s an investment – not just in us but in Amy’s art. I have asked Amy to sell me $33,500 of her art. No more ‘owing’ – it is a straight forward business transaction! I like the idea of becoming the biggest collect of the wonderfully talented Amy Globus.

Some people thought I was crazy handing over the check - but who knows, it might just be the best investment I’ve ever made!!!

Sunday, September 21, 2008



Last night we went out to dinner with our friends Michael and Jennifer. We started discussing our blog. I was looking through the early entries today and well, because life and love have been a little rocky lately, I started to re-read the earliest entries...then the entries from a few months ago...

I remembered how I felt when I met Gareth.

I remembered how I felt when ONB began.

I remembered how I felt when OBN was extended.

...and although things between us seem unstable and rocky right now I realized that I feel closer to him then ever before.

I realized that even though my love goggles grew strangely hazy, I love him more today then ever before.

I realized that during every hardship we've encountered, we have truly held each others hands, become best friends, and have jumped through hoops of fire, for each other and together.

Awe shucks ;)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

6 and a half weeks


Nope NOT 9 1/2 weeks, but in 6 1/2 weeks we will have paid off the INTEREST on the Public loans - then we get to pay off the principal.

Current Principal Balance: $87,379.22
Current Payoff Amount: $99,999.92

Friday, September 19, 2008

Free pens!!!


When the waiter gives you a pen...AMY should take it?

An expensive mistake


Last night I asked a waiter for a café au lait ($3.50) and ended up with a crème brulee ($9).

I figured it must be my accent and - being English - didn’t say a word and just sat there eating my unwanted dessert.

Love can hurt — your bank account


The first date is just the start of what may turn out to be the largest spending spree of your life. With the average courtship before a marriage lasting about two and a half years, dating is an increasingly expensive venture. Flowers, presents, dinners, and movie tickets are just the start of the list of items single men need to factor into their budgets, dating and relationship experts said. And don't even get us started on the costs of maintaining a long-distance romance.

By the time you head down the aisle, you can easily have spent more than $40,000 on vacations, jewelry, wedding expenses, and meals out, according to our calculations.

In extreme cases, some people are so intimidated by the cost of dating that they avoid it, said Pepper Schwartz, a sociology professor at the University of Washington who also serves as an adviser to the dating Web site "I've had men say to me, 'I just don't want to get into a relationship because it's going to cost me a tennis bracelet,'" Schwartz said. "But I don't think most people think about it. They feel true love is worth what it cost to get there."

Return of the cigs


After two months off the nicotine wagon Amy has fallen back on it. Bugger.

But all credit to Amy she is smoking significantly less than she used to - between 1 and 4 a day down from 20+

I'm still keen for that to be 0 but for now 1- 4 is pretty awesome. As a non-smoker i find it hard to understand why anyone would smoke. It takes everything and gives you nothing.

I want to grow old with Amy and spend as much time with her as possible. There is truck loads of information about how smoking significantly reduces the chances of this happening. That's why i want her to stop.


Thursday, September 18, 2008





I didn't spend the money on stupid fucking clothes -- I WENT TO SCHOOL!!!! We need a MIRACLE!!!!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The ring

Here is a bit of a belated update on the proposal and the ring. Back in December (yep i decided i wanted to marry her that long ago) I found a jeweler in New York who helped you make your own engagement ring. Perfect i thought. As Amy is an artist i thought i'd arrange for her to make her own ring afterall who am i to tell her what the engagement ring should be like?!?! I thought it was a super plan. I got the jeweler to give me a box with some little lumps of white gold in and a precious stone. I stuck them into a blob of blu tac and presented Amy with this 'Do-It-Yourself' ring kit in the restaurant. I thought it was a great idea, Amy wasn't so sure....

Gareth's idea for an engagement ring was very thoughtful. But, I know that if I made my own ring, I would think of myself every time I looked at it. I'd wonder if I had done a good job or not, if I should have made it differently etc... Ultimately, I would NOT be thinking about Gareth and I've always wanted an engagement ring, not necessarily an expensive one, but one that every time I looked at it, I would smile and think of my future husband - not question my jewlery making skills.

So we've decided to make each others wedding bands - super sweet!

So that is why Amy is currently wearing a $20 engagement ring from the market! Not the one in the picture! She wanted it but it didn't come in her size.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008



Yesterday I found myself walking into Sleepy's. My back was incredibly sore. I've been on a couch for 5 months and then on an air mattress for 5 months - I walked in and priced out a double bed with a pillow top. I sat on the bed and the sales woman said, "Go ahead, put your feet up." I looked at her with a crooked smile and hoisted my feet up on the bed. Oh my god it was so comfortable! My back sank in and I asked the woman, "Do you think sleeping on an air mattress for 5 months can hurt your back?"

She replied with a look of pity, "I can give you a deal on this full, I'll take off $50!"

"Ok, but I have to talk it over with my fiance."

I walked out in a hazy daze, day dreaming of the moment we would again lie down together on a real bed.

Maybe during ONB I can just take power naps at Sleepy's, after all their slogan is "We take good care of you" ;)

Monday, September 15, 2008

We are not alone...


I just found hundreds of student debt stories on the Student Loan Justice website - it makes for depressing reading.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Student Restaurant

We have found an interesting restaurant that we might go and splurge on one night. It’s a chef school where the students have to cater for paying guests each Friday. The menu is a set 4 courses and dead cheap - $36. But the best bit of all is the fact that it is BYOB!!!

If you are ever in new york you might want to book a table for yourselves.

Here's the menu for September 16th

Mushroom and Roasted Fennel Soup
Roasted Beets, Baby arugula, Toasted walnuts, and Balsamic Vinaigrette Salad
Lemon-Thyme Tofu, Sauteed Brocoli Rabe with Garlic, Rosemary Quinoa with Grilled Eggplant and
Kalamata Olives, Carmelized Onion Sauce
Apple Cake, Cinnamon Ice Cream, Caramel Sauce, Maple-Pecan Tuille

Whilst searching for this restaurant i stumbled across the this interesting article about student chefs having their dreams crushed by student debt...

"In the way that the work of directors like Martin Scorsese flooded film schools with students in the 1970s, and the television show “L.A. Law” packed law schools in the 1980s, the rise of celebrity chefs has been good for culinary schools. But would-be top chefs face a challenge that most lawyers, engineers or nurses do not: few jobs in their chosen field pay enough for them to retire their student loans."

Read more of the article here.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

"Don't mention ze debt"


A friend of mine said that he wouldn't go round telling people about Operation Night Brace. He thinks they'll form a bad opinion of me. He said it was like a 'drug problem' and is better not shared with people. It's unprofessional.

I'm not exactly sure how i feel about this advice. I know that debt comes with a stigma but i don't think it is up their with a chronic drug habit. I also think there are different types of debt...

Amy run up a debt of $180,000 shopping and going on holidays around the world

Amy ran up the debt putting herself through 3 colleges which are the US equivalent of going to Cambridge then Oxford then the Royal College Of Art because her parents couldn't help her.

Hardly a drug problem i think you'll agree!

I'm proud of my poor but smart fiancée xxxx

Friday, September 12, 2008



Yup I'm the sums lady...

Gareth and I made our first ever payment on the Public loans today. We paid a total of $2,983.12..That brings us to $104,100.00

STILL 8 F***ing numbers!!!