Wednesday, April 30, 2008

See a penny...

My Grandpa used to say to me to ‘always look after the pennies because the pounds will then look after themselves.’ How wise he was. I now can’t walk pass a dropped coin without picking it up.

I was with Amy the other day when I saw 2 one cent coins on the floor. I picked them both up and turned to her. “For us,” I said dramatically. She laughed. I laughed and then went off to find somewhere to wash my hands.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pizza piss

Working out what we could have spent $180,000 on is becoming my new hobby.

We’ve already discovered $180,000 is the equivalent of 1 and a half mini submarines (see "We could have brought a submarine") although I’m not exactly sure what we would do with half a submarine.

Here’s today’s sum…

A slice of pizza at my favorite pizza shop at 4th and B is $3.50 (BBQ chicken in case you are ever passing)

$3.50 goes into $180,000 51,428.5 times

That’s a slice a day for 140 years.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Wise words

"I have enough money to last me the rest of my life, unless I buy something."

Cycling in the rain (with very little singing)

Today was the first day I cycled from my new home to work.

86th Street to Tribeca is quite a trek - 5.22 miles according to and it feels even longer when it is raining and boy did it rain this morning. It was so bad in fact I actually started thinking that those sunglasses with motorised windscreen wipers were a good idea.

I got to work dripping wet and regretted not bringing any spare clothes with me. I had to improvise. I took my trousers off, stuffed kitchen towel in my shoes and wrapped myself in a lovely green blanket. To save time I did all this during a team meeting. Needless to say removing your trousers is not something you can do subtly especially not when you have 8 of your colleagues saying: "What the fuck are you doing Gareth?".

It is now lunchtime at work, it has stopped raining, I’ve almost dried out and so far I have spent $0 after a delicious lunch of leftovers and not having to cough up $2 for the subway. Happy days.

Only 4 hours until I get to cycle back. Wish me luck.

Believe in your own product


With money an endangered animal in my life eating at one of the $4.50 Chinese restaurants is looking like an actually treat. I have always avoided such places because I am worried where they get their meat from to be able to offer such low prices.

Now I have an even better reason to avoid them no matter how desperate I become.

Tonight I walked passed one and looked in the window. What I saw was worse than a cockroaches crawling up the wall.

The restaurant staff were sitting round eating McDonalds. Shock! Horror! How bad must the food be for the staff to go out and spend their own money on McDonalds rather than eating the stuff they have prepared themselves??????

Unsubscribing to temptation

I have started taking a small but important step to reducing my spendings today.

I have started unsubscribing from all the mailing lists I am on. Each time I get an email I click on the unsubscribe link. Goodbye See’s Candy newsletter, goodbye 1-800-FLOWERS and your useful reminders of obscure events that needed to be celebrated with flowers, goodbye and your beautiful limited edition t-shirts I spent a fortune on, goodbye and your recommendations for Gareth D Miles.

Goodbye spam. Hello savings.

Friday, April 25, 2008


It seems like we are heading for a global rice shortage. Prices have jumped since the start of the year. Shops are limiting the amount people can buy. People in Liberia are having to learn how to eat spaghetti.

It’s ricediculous.

I have half a box of risotto rice in the cupboard. I was going to use it last night but decided against it. If prices keeping going up I’ll shove it on eBay!

Should have stayed in bed


Yesterday my entire budget for the day today went before 9am. Bollocks.

Amy phoned me at 5:30 saying her eyes were painful so I jumped in a cab ($18)and headed over to her Mum’s (I move in this weekend for the official start of Operation Night Brace is May 1st). Nurse Gareth did as best a job as he could to comfort her before jumping on the subway to get to work ($2) but as I reached work my hellish hayfever kicked in and I had to make a diversion to the chemist to buy some drugs ($5).

$25 gone and the day hadn’t even begun.

I should have stayed in bed.

Thursday, April 24, 2008



April 24, 2008

I woke up this morning, at ’silly-o-clock’ with my eyes glued shut; sealing both my contacts in tightly, I couldn’t see a thing! I tried to ignore the pain but eventually my finger made it’s way to the phone and called Gareth, not me folks the finger! I quickly hung up on the second ring – I really didn’t want to wake him – he needed a good rest!

That’s when the light bulb went off: I still live with my mother, a.k.a. mommy – and I didn’t feel badly about waking her, so I did. She was a mommy champion, she jumped out of bed and went to work on fixing me immediately.

That’s when I got the text: In a cab, be there in 20. Gareth came to my rescue and cuddled me for 2 hours. My hero. I went to the doctor and he told me I had 2, not 1, but 2 bacterial infections taking over both my eyes. My doc said, “Ouch, it looks severe.” So he sent me to the Ophthalmologist, yikes…the good news is I won’t go blind – the bad news is it cost me $90! 2 doctors, 2 prescriptions for 2 nasty eye infections!

I had to remind myself all day that:
1) no matter how far in debt you are - NEVER mess with your health!
2) no matter how old you are, it’s always nice to have 2; a mommy and a “Nurse Gareth” near by.

Polar bears

Debt is like global warming.

The longer you leave it the worse it gets.

The only upside is that fewer polar bears are dying because of student loans.

Squeezing cheese

I have to admit that my biggest worry about living together is the toilet that is just off the room. It is about 2 meters away from the bed. I knew this experience we are about to undergo will bring us closer together as a couple but I’m a bit worried about every splash, splosh and strain of mine being heard by Amy. No woman deserves that.

Her older sister Jen gave us some great advice…

“Buy matches”


Spaghetti flashbacks


This whole experience reminds me of when I used to work in advertising as a creative and my copywriter lived off nothing but tins of own-label spaghetti.

Everyday for about five months he ate the same thing – spaghetti on toast. He brought in the tins each day and work provided the bread (as much toast as you can eat was pretty much the only perk of working in that uninspiring hole of an agency).

If he wasn’t so tall and lanky to begin with I’m sure this monotonous diet would have had that effect (Amy tells me she went orange once from drinking too much carrot juice). The reason for this peculiar diet was because he was saving up to get married and those 26p cans meant they were able to save enough money to have a fantastic day.

You will be pleased to hear that roast chicken, not spaghetti, was served up to the guests at the wedding reception.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


April 23, 2008 (But really more like April 15, 2008)

(I wrote this entry weeks ago but didn’t post it because I’m shy)

Gareth once asked me “How do all those old couples you see on the street holding hands make it?” To which I simply responded “Courage.” But, ultimately, I'm not really sure how they 'make it'. Maybe they last because they just really like each other, maybe they can't imagine a life apart, or maybe they're tied together by debt.. (just kidding Gareth ;)

Someone told me once that the true test of love was: if you were both standing on a cliff and someone had to jump who would you choose? My answer then was, "Couldn’t we just both give a leg, a leg and an arm, two arms and a leg? Can't I haggle my way out of this?”

More recently, I've realized that I don’t have any definitions for love. I’d like to think that love has many ever-evolving definitions never to be pinned down. I fall in love with Gareth everyday, and whatever the test may be, when it comes time to jump, I'd like to think we'd go hand-in-hand.

Barely Daily

April 23.5, 2008

About 3 years ago I developed astigmatism in my right eye from improperly fit contact lenses. I was so mad that I spent the next 6 months interviewing doctors and learning as much as I could about my eyes, now i know I should have sued! I eventually had my contacts refit, but with the astigmatism they doubled in price. Unfortunately, glasses give me headaches. So today I called my new and improved eye doctor and asked him "What, really, is the difference between Daily’s and Weekly’s?" He said “To tell you the truth Amy, nothing…they’re practically the same.” What a plan! I've now ordered 3 months of Daily’s and I will wear them as Weekly's - less then half the price for triple the amount! Who-hoo!

(NOTE: I am not a doctor and at the moment I have white gunk pouring out of my right eye)

Electric Lunch

April 21, 2008

Last week Gareths company signed a lease on a new office space. Apparently it used to be an insane asylum, seems like a perfect fit! He and a few colleagues went over to check out the new digs. He said he had “found me a gift.” Nothing new since Gareth brings me thoughtful gifts everyday. Some days it's a half eaten piece of cake left over from a meeting, other days it's a book he found in the trash.

This was probably the greatest gift to date. It was an Infrared-Magnetic-Therapy-Apparatus LUNCHBOX. Holy shit! I’ve always felt like a dork carrying my lunch, but for the next six months I will strut with my meals in hand! I showed it to my mother who looked confused and yelped “Oh my God, throw that away, immediately!” To which I said, “No, it’s my new lunchbox!”

Some people will just never understand, but this was the moment I knew Gareth was starting to see my inner soul, even if my secret-self is a short fat black woman, but that’s a different story all together.



Amy said yesterday that all this is making her feel sick with worry. She is worried I’m not going to be happy over the next 6 months living on so little. (Interesting fact - $28 is actually over 7 times the daily income in India). She is worried that I’ll regret giving up all that I have.

To try and stop her worrying I asked her two simple questions:

“Would you do it for me?”

To which she responded: “Yes”

“Would you be happy doing it for me?”

“Yes” she said again.

Sometimes in life you just don’t have a choice about doing something. That’s ‘not having a choice’ in a bad way. You just realise you don’t want to do anything else.

I’ve noticed that my language around the debt has changed over the last three weeks – I no longer refer to it as ‘her debt’, instead I find myself referring it to ‘our debt’.

Sometimes you can’t just sit on the sidelines and let someone else play the whole game without you.

Look Wheel Of Fortune executives – I am trying to be more sporty (‘sidelines’, ‘whole game’ references) and as I type this I am looking at a car magazine and cleaning my gun collection.



Whilst flicking through the TV channels with Chris we landed upon The Wheel Of Fortune. They were just given money away to the contestants – all you have to do is spin a wheel and answer a few basic questions. Hmmmm this could help us pay off a big chunk of the debt. I went online and applied. It was easy, you just go to and answer the questions. I don’t think my chances of getting on are very good though due to the answers I gave…

Do you have a favourite baseball team? No
Do you have a favourite American football team? No
Do you have a favourite basketball team? No
Do you have a favourite Nascar team? No
Are you in the Army? No

It looks like The Wheel Of Fortune are after some car loving, gun carrying sports fanatics for their next season of shows. Sadly I have never been that into sport, I know nothing about cars and I have only fired one machine gun and that was in Bangkok where I was out gunned by a girl.

I am not going to hold my breath.

Perhaps I’ll have better luck entering some competitions in the supermarket magazines.



I had one of my best friends from London come and stay this weekend. Chris will be the last person to stay with me until the end of Operation Night Brace.

On Saturday morning I awoke to the sound of a giant hamster next door – there was lots and lots of rustling sounds coming from the living room. When I stepped out my room I saw a mountain of Calvin Klein underwear boxes and Century 21 bags - Chris had been busy trying to single-handedly keep the American economy limping along. The strength of the GDP makes everything a steal over here. If only I was being paid in Sterling!!!

We had a great time but it was quite a funny few days – I wasn’t spending any money and Chris wasn’t eating anything. He is on quite an extreme diet called Lighter Life where he basically lives off water and mineral packs for 4 months (he is literally a third of the man I used to know and looks a handsome 10 years younger).

Every time I ate in front of Chris I felt guilty.

Every time he spent money in front of me he felt guilty.

All this guilt.

Thank goodness the Pope was in town for his first ever visit to America.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Beaches (1988)


In High School I used to wonder what all the 'superstars' in New York did with their extra money: of course after they'd bought their houses, small islands, donated to a local charity of choice etc; there must have been loads left over!

I wanted just a fraction of that 'left over' money. I wanted to use it for College and Art, two completely worthwhile causes. I thought if I could just get in touch with one of them, they’d hear my plea and understand I was serious about using their money to better myself; an amount insignificant to them could ultimately change my life!

My target: Bette Midler. I believed she had the emotional capacity to sympathize with my case. She also seemed quite motherly and passionate; if anyone would understand she would!

I tried to get in touch with her agent – but I knew they wouldn’t let me talk to her AND I certainly couldn’t pitch my idea to an agent; they would never understand! I had to get in front of Bette somehow. I waited for a sighting in NY for a year and a half, during which I drafted and re-drafted the most heart felt and compelling letter I could. My letter was never posted, I never spotted her in New York and I eventually I gave up on Bette and her extra cash.

Coffee Barter


Turns out I spend quite a bit on coffee everyday, so I tried to convince my boss to purchase a coffee machine for our office. Go figure, I’m the only one in our office that drinks coffee, damn it! Coffee is one of my favorite pleasures in the morning and I just can’t see myself cutting it out. So, instead I came up with a righteous business plan to pitch to my local coffee vender. My old coffee man, Jason, was so cool I used to climb into his truck in the cold of winter and listen to all of his wild gambling adventures; it was like having coffee with an old (crazy) friend. I’m assuming he hit it big ‘cause one day he packed up, left my corner and I haven’t seen him since. (Well, he either hit it big or hit a cell hard…that I’ll never know, but I’d like to think the former.)

Of course Jason couldn’t charge me, we were friends, he’d just refill my cup and enjoy the conversation. His replacement, I’ll call him ‘what’s his face’, is a lot stiffer and grumpier, he drives a hummer for fucks sake! I thought that if I could guarantee him a weekly income, 1 coffee per day everyday for the next 6 months, AND only use my thermos instead of his paper cups he might be willing to drop his price a bit. I argued that it was better for the environment AND he’d save loads of money on cups! We haggled for a while and then mutually agreed on $5 a week instead of his asking price $7. In savings that’s $2 a week or $48.00 over the next 6 months for me! For him it’s 5 paper cups a week or 120 paper cups for the next 6 months – it is a good deal for both parties and the earth.

“I love you Honey Bunny … everybody be cool – this is a fucking robbery.”


If we weren’t such law abiding citizens, $180,000 would be just one bank job away. Amy and I could become a modern day Bonnie and Clyde driven to a life of crime by student debts.

I’m not are exactly how we would commit our crimes (rubber masks and machine guns seem so old hat). As a kid I often thought about robbing banks with an army of remote controlled vehicles. I’d have a evil doers lair up on a mountain which had it’s own swimming pool, water slide and snake pit. I'd also have girls in bikinis serving me Ginger Beer.

Smoke in Jersey


Ordering cigarettes online has become increasingly difficult in New York. It is still legit to order them for half the price, but they have to be delivered to New Jersey – oh and you have to smoke them in Jersey too. That’s my plan. I’ve ordered them from and now I only smoke them in Jersey. Yup the trip is long but they are literally half the price!

I’ve also started clipping my Jersey cigarettes in half with the small scissors I now carry around in my bag. Instead of chucking them half smoked I just cut off the cherry and save the rest for later. Believe it or not, I smoke half of what I thought and the scissors (versus just flicking off the cherry) keep the butts from stinking up my bag even more. Right on!

Net Worth


Today I did nothing = today I spent nothing. In New York there are few chances to do absolutely nothing; mainly because this city has an electric buzz that never quiets down. This city is relentless and keeps everyone out and about, on the street, spending cash. I have a hard time sitting still as it is, but today I’ve decided to shut it all down and reflect. I spent the entire day on Gareth’s and my new raft: the air mattress.

During my decompression, I started to wonder how severe the penalties would be if I pulled out of my 401(k). I figured there MUST be some sort of reprieve from the IRS: if you’re going give the government all your f**king money, in some form or another, they should cut you some slack! Turns out this is NOT the way to go, even if it is to pay off your student debt. Don’t do it: taking money out of a 401(k) before retirement is expensive and stupid.

I then added up my assets: not a house or a car just some jewelry from x’s, the $4,000 projector I bought last year (that makes Gareth nauseous), and two real, not Chinese, human skulls. Which, I might add, are very rare and in excellent condition – they have almost all of their original teeth! My net worth totaled $11,600. Woo-hoo! Gareth says it’s a false economy because I’ll always want two human skulls and an HD projector, so I’ll just hock the old jewelry and I won’t be sending this blog to any x’s :)

Julia Roberts


I saw a woman at the weekend holding a sign in Union Square, it said:

“Tired of prostitution but need the money. Please help.”

She was no Julia Roberts so I’m guessing begging probably pays about the same as turning tricks. It got me wondering about what my own version could be…

“Never tried prostitution but need the money. Please help.”
“Tied to a prostitute. Need money. Please help.”
“Deep fried by a prostitute. Need money. Please help.”

Hmmmm. If I get drunk one day perhaps I’ll make a sign and muscle in on her turf.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Eau du Amy


Today I went to the Apple Store to see if I could get a replacement iPhone for the one I carelessly dropped in the street last week. My screen cracked like an egg and I’ve already replaced my phone once before. This was going to be tricky. I did my hair and make-up and most importantly I didn’t use deodorant! You might think that cleavage or giggling is the way to go but I’m telling you, there is nothing more powerful then pheromones in Spring. At first the guy behind the desk said “It’ll be $250 for the replacement.” That’s when I leaned over and let him get a whiff, no cleavage no flirting JUST good old-fashioned pheromones. He then smiled and said “Since it was in a case…I’ll replace it for free.” Woo-hoo it worked!

Oh what a relief, $250 can be a very powerful set back – especially when your trying to spend only $25 a day – that’s 10 days!

Perhaps writing this is a bad idea but it was legit – my phone was in it’s condom when it shattered and it’s just plain unrealistic to think that you are never going to drop your phone; phones drop and get kicked around just like anything else so maybe apple should rethink using glass on the next generation.

Trolley pusher

Life in NYC is hard for a lot of people. I often see very elderly Chinese people pushing big trolleys of empty cans and bottles all around – rummaging in bins to look for stuff to add to their mobile collection.

There is a vending machine behind Key Foods in the East Village where you can recycle these cans and bottles and get 5c per item.

If times get really tough we can always go through people’s bins looking for cans to recycle – we’ll be saving the planet and paying off the loans. Dear Lord I hope it doesn’t come to that. I’m not sure how good I’ll look pushing a trolley of tin cans around the city. It’s not really the Big Apple experience I was after when I moved her.

An Elf in NY

Hmmmm babysitting! Rachel at work made a semi-joking suggestion of doing some babysitting for her fiancée’s friends. $50 a night seems to be the going rate! I’m seriously considering it. I used to work as an elf in Lapland (I’m not joking I did) and I can honestly say there are very few babysitters with that on their CV living in New York City. Getting paid to watch telly and raid someone’s fridge sounds like a pretty sweet deal. Told Amy. She once ate a whole pound cake while babysitting – the mum came home and said: ‘Where’s my pound cake?’ Amy said: ‘I ate it’. Amy was not invited back.
When I get settled at Amy’s mum’s I’m going to look at this babysitting caper in more detail. $50 is almost two days allowance!

Mercury poisoning


I’ve smelt toast on a daily basis since the deposit but thankfully my health insurance is still intact! I’m a vegetarian (fishaquarian if you will) and tuna on wheat seems like a healthy and cheap option for the next few months; although the threat of mercury poisoning is extremely high in the US at the moment, I’ve done the work and discovered that the first symptom of Mercury poisoning is turning blue, so, noticing it at an early stage shouldn’t be a problem.

(Small tip: canned tuna in water versus oil mixed with cilantro helps dilute the mercury content significantly)

Death in service

Work will pay 4 times my salary to my loved ones if I die in service – gulp!!!! Let’s hope we don’t get that desperate.

Working smarter

Great news – Amy landed some freelance stuff today. Kerching! Better still she has outsourced it so she will be overseeing most of it rather than actually doing it all herself.

I’m all for this working smarter not harder.

"Are you mad?"

I got the last of my birthday presents today. Work very kindly buy everyone a gift and this year I got $75 in cash – this is the first time they have given anyone cash!!! Normally it has to be stuff for tax purposes. Last year they got me a food walking tour of Greenwich and a night speed dating with women aged 35 to 45!! I explained to my boss what we were doing – her jaw dropped. She thinks I’m mad and told me to get something in writing in regards to me handing over my savings.

3 stars for 36 dollars

So lunch at Jean George was amazing and deserved the 3 michellin stars that it carries. Our last big splurge before the belts get tightened. In the world of fine dining it was very reasonable – the food bill was only $36 per head (plus tax and service). It was delicious but I was soon hungry again and filled up on fruit cake in the evening – it is one of my most favorite foods in the world.

The complacency of others

I now check my bank account regularly, something I haven’t done in the past. I noticed that I was being swindled out of $103! Overcharge on one account and a double charge on another! I made the proper calls and was refunded the money. TOO many businesses thrive on the complacency of others…it just makes me wonder how much money I’ve lost in the past due to carelessness.

Harrison (we can af)Ford

We walked by the Lowe cinema today (which is now going to be my local) and saw that they do a matinee special on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday – all films before midday are $6 (the normal price is $11). So it looks like we won’t have to sacrifice any of our Hollywood diet during the six months. I am very excited about the new Indiana Jones movie.

Dummy run

We did a dummy run last night for Operation Night Brace. I stayed over in the back room and it was great. This is the first time I have ever stayed at Amy’s. She had to be the ‘tea bitch’ this morning – normally I am the ‘coffee bitch’ when Amy stays at mine. This basically means that she says: “Make the coffee bitch” when she wakes up which I duly do.

Our new bedroom is filled with mirrors so it is a bit like being in a Bruce Lee movie. Amy brought us a window pen for writing messages to one another on the mirrors – it currently has “You are a giant in my life” written in big letters across it as Amy said last night that she was feeling ‘small’ ☹

As long as we are tidy the backroom will be more than alright for 6 months.

We are off for an explore of the area in a few minutes before meeting Hannah and Sasha for lunch. It is their last day here so we are off to Jean Gorges which should be great.

Make a wish

Birthday celebrations with the Globus family today. I got spoilt with presents and filled to bursting with great food cooked by Amy’s mum. It is so strange thinking back to how I felt last year – I was still struggling to get used to my new American life. It was still so hard and different. What a difference a year (and a subscription to makes.

One of my favorite presents was a little box of Amy’s eyelashes – it might sound a bit odd but it is so thoughtful. She said that each time I want to make a wish I simple have to pick one out and blow it away. She was going to try and harvest 31 eyelashes from her eyes but stopped short of that for fear of doing permanent damage. Nutter!

10 blocks for a box

I walked 10 blocks to pick out his first FREE birthday present: a handful of my eyelashes plucked in the reflection of my blush mirror. My plan was to give him 31 eyelashes for 31 wishes on his 31st birthday; well, to be honest, I really only plucked 5 in fear of permanent damage or unleashing the Alopecia(n) gods. I asked my 5-year-old niece to contribute (She’s young they’ll grown back) -- giving him 6 whole chances to wish he had found a woman without debt ;)

I walked by Plastic Land and considering I’ve spent the bulk of my income there for many years they gave me a FREE .6” by .6” plexi glass box to hold my eyelashes, saving all of 41 cents… woo hoo for Amy! And I thought living on a budget was going to be hard.

A boring drunk

We lucked out with freebies today. A friend of my sister and brother-in-laws brought us all lunch at Rosa Mexicana – delicious (shame Amy couldn’t make it)! And then in the evening Amy and I went to celebrate the opening of her brother-in-law’s new restaurant at the top of the Upper West Side. Delicious finger food and as much free drink as you could handle. We got smashed! Amy reckons it was the first time she has ever seen me drunk. I tend not to get drunk too often as I’m a boring drunk – I get tired quickly and want to curl up in a ball which isn’t much fun. When I was at college people would show me the traffic cones they’d carried home after a heavy night of drinking and all I could think was: “Where did you get the energy from?”

Home Small Home

Amy has been working so hard on getting the room ready at the back of her mum’s apartment. It is super sweet. We are going to be very happy in there. It’s small but cute. The Meatloaf-o-meter is up on the wall and waiting to have the first bit crossed off which will be on Tuesday.

David & Goliath

Gareth and I will now be living in the house I grew up in with my mother and little sis, this will be a true test of love. My mother has graciously agreed to let us move into her back room, the room my grandfather died in a little over a year ago, Oy. (That’s Jewish for… well, Oy)

I’ve already scrubbed out all the urine stains, scoured the shower floor (covered in water bugs) and cleared out the closet. Living in New York has taught me you can always make the most unpleasant and cramped of spaces cosy and wonderful with just a little love and elbow grease. BUILD UP NOT OUT! Just make sure that less then 100 pounds of stuff isn’t above your side of the bed!

Gareth and I will have to navigate around the 4” of space I’ve left surrounding the air mattress I bought. It’s far too large for the space, a double, if you can imagine. This should make for a nice challenge considering the man I have fallen in love with is a 6’2” Goliath, luckily I’m more David than Goliath (only in size of course ;)

Make-Up bags, hospitals and broken phones

Bit of a bumpy start to the weekend. Amy broke her phone last night. She dropped it and the screen shattered. Lots of tears. $500 for a new phone is not something we had budgeted for! She also woke up to find her make-up bag missing (Lots of tears), a close friend was in hospital (Lots of tears), and worst of all – a spot on the end of her nose (lots and lots of tears).

There wasn’t much we could do about the iPhone. But we could try and do something about the rest. We jumped in a cab and headed up to 23rd Street to the last place Amy could remember having her make-up bag and there it was sitting on reception (God bless you cleaning lady for your honesty). We then jumped back into a cab and went to the hospital to see Michael. The room he was in smelled awful but that was soon fixed with a $1 bag of microwave popcorn I brought from a vending machine and popped in the cafeteria. Michael is under strict instruction to sniff the popcorn bag when the smell gets too much. Fingers crossed it is just a wobble and nothing more serious.

Considering how much hospital stays cost in America the rooms are shit!!!! Where are the Tempura-Pedic pillows, the fresh cut flowers, the extensive wine list with the gourmet hospital meals and where is the 42inch plasma TV?

Now Amy has her make-up bag back she is going to ‘make herself real pretty’ and go into the Apple store on Monday and flirt shamelessly with the staff – trying to get a sympathetic ear on a busy weekend is pretty unlikely.


The loan payment has cleared and now there is no turning back. I must admit, running off to Africa and living like a Queen did occur to me, but only for a week or so, then it passed.

Bastard banks

Ouch - ATM charges!!!

It is outrageous over here. When you use an ATM in a store it flashes up on the screen that it will charge you a fee to take out money from that machine – fair enough, you are paying for the convenience. It’s all very clear.

But then – and here comes the kicker – HSBC charge me an additional $1.50 so I am stuck with total charges of $3.25 for withdrawing $100. Three point fucking two five percent. I hate you HSBC. The sooner the Chase cards come through for our joint account the better! You can’t turn a corner in NY without stumbling across a Chase.

(I spent the first 26 years of my life assuming HSBC stood for the High Street Banking Company – idiot)

The sweatshirts at the end of the tunnel

I know it is a long way off – in act, it seems a lifetime away – but I have decided what I want to do to celebrate finally paying off the college debts. I want to visit Columbia, Brown and RISD. At each college I want to buy a hooded sweatshirt that has the college name written across it in big letters. I will then wear them with pride and when someone asks me: “Did you go to Columbia/Brown/RISD?” I will say “No - but I paid for someone else to go!”


Time to sort out some of the basics.

We cancelled Amy’s netflix subscription – we don’t need two.

We checked we were both on the best cell phone plans possible – unlimited text deals etc. (I used to spend $90 a month on texts until I realized I could pay just $20 and text as my as I liked within the US – doh! I wish I’d know that sooner!)

Amy’s phonebill has now come down to $100 and I think mine should be around that amount too.

Counting peannies continued

Tonight I grabbed 2 left over sodas from work. A diet coke and a root beer to drink during the dinner Gareth made from his roommates dry pasta and ketchup packets taken from the cafeteria… (just kidding Gareth - dinner was delicious.) We’re counting peas folks!

Looking after the peannies

Oh my god I can’t believe how frugal I just was. I poured out some peas to have with dinner tonight and I ended up pouring some back into the bag as I felt I’d poured out too many – I can get another two meals out of the bag now!

Am I turning into that bloke from ‘Sleeping With The Enemy’?

They say it is the small things that count. Fingers crossed that is the case.

30 cents per guided tour


My Sister and Sasha (my brother-in-law) have flown over for my birthday – yippppeeee!!!

They had a whole suitcase full of goodies for me – tea bags, crumpets, baked beans, HP sauce, the list goes on and on. Delicious treats that we shall we rationing out over the next few months.

Invested in two useful things today in preparation for the May 1st move in and the official start of OPERATION NIGHT BRACE!

The first item was two pill boxes – his and hers. Each ones goes from Monday to Sunday and I’m planning to put our daily allowance behind each door each week. It is a kind of financial advent calendar. (Amy now knows what an advent calendar is after I made her own one last Xmas. I lovingly filled 24 boxes with candy and messages and she opened them all in one go on December 1st!!!! She had never had one before).

The second item was a set of 50 walking tours of New York cards. They come with loads of quirky facts and cost $15. That’s 30 cents a tour – bargain. If we did two a week for the six months at Amy’s Mum’s we would still have 18 left to do after OPERATION NIGHT BRACE is complete.

We went to a lot of shops today. Apart from the above I didn’t buy anything. I am training myself to savor window shopping rather than actual shopping. It’s a good discipline as I did used to spend a lot of money on shit – looking round my room it is hard to believe that I turned up in NY with just two suitcases! Did I really need to buy the Plasma Sperm Microscope in Japan? It is a microscope for checking your sperm count. Sooooo Japanese (It’s still in it’s wrapper you will be pleased to hear).

Love defined


This situation has helped me crystallize my definition of what love is.

It is quite simple.

For me, love means doing something terrifying and not being terrified at all.

I gave Amy a cheque for all the money I had saved up last year - $33,500.

I wrote ‘for personal services’ on the cheque.


It has a name!!!!


We have come up with a name for our challenge – just talking about THE DEBT or THE LOAN can be quite depressing. We wanted to make it fun and settled on the name OPERATION NIGHT BRACE (hence the name of the blog). It is based on the fact that when Amy was a kid she had to wear a night brace. She wanted her teeth to be straightened as quickly as possible so she would wear her night brace to school – super cute. It’s exactly what we are doing here with the debt – we need to fix it as fast as possible ($9 a day in interest folks). If given a choice no-one in their right mind would run three miles in a race if they could get away with running just two.

OPERATION NIGHT BRACE wasn’t my first choice for a name. My Dad and I had established a code word for it STINKY FEET when I rang him for advice. But STINKY FEET isn’t very inspiring! It comes from my Grandad who would always say ‘I bet she has stinky feet’ whenever he saw a good looking one – basically what he was trying to say was that no-ones perfect and you know what? No-one is.

Giving something a bit painful a fun name definitely makes talking about it easier.

The line


There is a lot of emotion wrapped up in debt. I think one of the important things to do is draw a line beneath what has happened and start a fresh. Saying stuff like ‘if only….’ Or ‘if I hadn’t…’ doesn’t really help matters. The debt is a fact. Wishing it away isn’t going to help. What matters is what we do (or don’t do) from this day forward. The line has been drawn (and I’ll try not to think about that HD projector Amy brought last year ☺ ).

Penny arcade


I have a bowl of coins on my window ledge that I add to each night.

Commerce bank offer a free coin counting service – you just tip it and the machine does the rest. I did it once before and the machine asks you to guess how much you have just tipped in. I guessed $3 and it ended up being over $30!!! It really is surprising how much a handful of coins can be worth.

I am going back to Commerce Bank tomorrow with more coins. You can ask them to give you your money however you like – I’m getting it in quarters to pay for the washing machine in the flat. Free laundry (sort of).

Update – I got $11.27 from my coin jar. That’s almost enough for two washer/dryer loads.

The good old days


I got the 1-800-flowers catalogue through the post today. Ohhh the good old days when I wasn’t trying to survive on as little cash as possible.

I wonder if cutting out the pictures and giving them to Amy will have the same effect as the real ones I used to send her? Afterall, It is the thought that counts ☺

Minimum spends


Grrrr how I hate minimum spends on cards. $10 minimums. $25 minimum. If Duane Reade can let you pay for a pack of gum with a card why can’t everyone?

I sometimes feel it is just a trick to get you to spend more! In the UK you could get the differnce back as cash – I’ll have to see if that is possible over here.

My biggest vice


Buying books has always been one of my biggest vices and I am ashamed to admit sometimes I just buy them and stick them unread on the self! Bad Gareth. I’m see the next six months as an opportunity to read all the books I have left unloved on my bookshelf.

I have just sorted them out and there are 21 of them and there is a pretty good mix - from ‘Microtrends’ by Mark Penn to ‘Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs’ by Chuck Klosterman.

There is easily six months worth (I’m a slow reader) and if I can just avoid going into Boarders then I’m sure I can tame my book buying habit which is a great thing as NY living is not great for book lovers – the flats … sorry apartments are too small!

Cookies for breakfast

Today was a good day even though I woke up incredibly early (4am!!! I must be stressed). Breakfast was a 99c jumble cookie from Wholefoods. Jumble cookies are one of my favorite things in the world and they costs under a dollar - Thank god for the small things!

Before work I dug round my room and found my stash of foreign currency. There was money from all over the world – Brazil, China, Australia, Norway etc. I knew the banks wouldn’t change the coins so I gathered up all the notes and took them at lunchtime to the Chase branch nearest work.

For a $5 fee they change all my notes into dollars and to my surprise I had $99.72. Great stuff. Before leaving the bank I asked about how easy it was to set up a joint bank account, the lady must be on pretty tough targets as she said she could do it all there and then even though I didn’t have all the right documents (I had to pop back in with my payslips and current HSBC bank account details). She told me that there was a $125 gift for opening the account – it gets paid in when the first bit of my salary gets deposited. The $125 isn’t tied to a fee amount of cash or a percentage of salary – you get it even if you put in a dollar!!! I rounded up the $99.72 to a $100 and deposited that into my newly created account. In just under 20 minutes I had made a little under $225. Joy oh joy!

A highlight of my afternoon was free ice lollies at work because the office was stuffy. There were a few left over so I jumped on my bike and cycled over to Amy’s office with one. Free lollies taste sooooo good. We discussed what we should do with the money I gave her – I wanted to hand it straight over to the loan company whereas she wants to put into a high interest account and pay it in at the end of October. This would actually cost us $1600 - the difference between the interest on the loan and the interest on the savings. Hmmmm we agreed to talk about it more tonight.

I’m in the middle of cooking as I type this – nothing is burning yet. I have spent about $16 on dinner but I have enough ingredients for two meals. I am cooking spaghetti with a mushroom, cream, cheese, pea, lemon and white wine sauce. It tastes pretty good. The peas are from the freezer and we already have lots of spaghetti in the cupboard. I’m keen for us to eat well even though we are on a budget. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Oh I almost forget – three other good things happened today. Work was giving away some stuff left over from a project. I am now the proud owner of a bottle of Vitamin C tablets (we won’t be suffering from scurvy over the next few days) , a facepack and a toy set that is very cool (it was brought from MOMA for $38) – the perfect present for someone small although we might just keep it.

All in all a very good day. Fingers crossed we will sleep well tonight. Amy’s staying over and between her problems going to sleep and me waking up at silly o’clock we are almost a 24 hour couple.

"We could have brought a submarine!"

I keep equating everything to how much we owe. We went to a lecture tonight by a guy who built his own submarine. When he took questions at the end I asked him how much it had cost him to build it. $120,000 was the response. Amy and I didn’t need to say anything to one another but we had both instantly done the sums in our head – we could have make one and a half submarines rather than paying off the loans!


A strange thing is happening when I tell people about the plan – it is inspiring them. It is making think about their own finances and what they should be doing. Before you know it, everyone I work with will be living back at home rent free.


When I told dad about the plan he said he was proud of me. I told Amy this and she almost started to cry.

When I told Sue our finance lady at work whose brain I have been picking about ‘what the fuck should we do’ she also said she was proud of us ☺

All my life I have tried to make those close to me proud of me. If only I’d known that all I have to do is try and live on $28 a day and move into my girlfriends backroom I could have perhaps tried a little less hard at school, college and work.

The race

After accepting a check for all of his savings for the past year I began experiencing unusual heart palpitations and the smell of toast filled my nostrils. I wanted to put the money into a high interest CD for security, (high interest means nothing during a recession but I knew I was pitching a hard sell). According to Gareth we are in a race, a race against interest rates, which for private loans are quite high, so I deposited the check

Money is like sex

Slight bit of panic tonight when Amy helped me see exactly what I am doing: “Gareth you are giving up your savings, your flat, your salary – you are giving up everything. Are you sure you want to do this?”
But I’ve thought about it and at the end of the day it is just money.
Money isn’t something that you should hoard all to yourself. Look at how little fun Scrooge had with all that cash! Money is like sex – it is best when you share it with someone else.

Get rich quick schemes

It feels good having a plan to pay off the private loans – it is just a case of being good with our cash and in 6 months it will all be sorted. Job done.

I’m now focusing my efforts on coming up with says to tackle the public loan. I have a few ideas for generate some cash – from books to businesses.

I’ll keep you posted if any of them come off.

$28 dollars a day

We ran some sums this morning and it looks like we can pay off $7500 a month if we can survive on $28 a day ($56 between us) – that doesn’t have to cover travel or cell phone bills. $7500 is a huge amount. If Amy let’s me give her the money I saved last year. We can pay off all the private loans by October 31st – Halloween.

Asking Mum


I did consider going home and not asking "mum" if Gareth could move in. I'd just tell him she said "no", point blank "no", but of course I didn't. I did exactly as he requested. "Go home as ask your mum in a way that she can NOT say no, show her the charts we made...oh and offer to make her a cup of coffee!"

Well, that's what I did. I sat down timidly and asked her like a ten year old would ask for a monkey. Before I could finish she said, "Of course, anything I can do to help, I will do." Shit. I did, again, consider telling Gareth she said "no", making up stories like she hit me over the head with a sauce pan or she ran out of the room screaming before I could convince her (but he's met her so that won't work). Or maybe, I could tell him she fainted and I'd have to wait to talk to her...but no...I told him the truth, I made the phone call and that was the end of that.

A crazy concert and a crazy plan

A plan emerged tonight. It is kind of crazy but it might just work.

We were at the Williamsburg Music Hall watching the insane Peelander-Z put on a show like no other I have seen (well worth checking them out). I’m not sure exactly where the plan came from but it quickly snowballed while we watched five Japanese guys leaping around a stage dressed as cartoon characters and singing punk rock songs.

It’s a pretty simple plan where we will be able to save loads together and live together which is something we have been talking about doing for ages (‘ages’ as in two of the five months we have been dating). So far so good. But there is a catch and that catch is that we’ll be living in amy’s mum’s back room! Yikes.

As we left the venue with our ears ringing it really did seem like a great idea (and we weren’t that drunk) but the big question is: Will Amy’s mum go for it?


Two days have passed since the bombshell. I can’t get my head round how big the debt is!!! My brain is in meltdown. It is rare that I can’t come up with a plan when faced with a challenge. It might not be a great plan but it is at least a plan. With $180,000 suddenly appearing in our relationship I can honestly say I’m stumped. Tried chatting with Dad to see if he could offer any pearls of wisdom. He was stumped too. We both agreed that this must have been a massive weight for Amy to carry round.

We need a plan.

How it started


The beginning is always a good place to start but I wasn’t around at the beginning of this story so I’ll have to jump straight into the middle with some facts…

I have just given a girl I met 5 months ago on the internet $33,500, agreed to move into her mum’s back room, give her all my salary for six months and just live on $28 a day.

Am I mental? No I’m Gareth and sometimes you’ll do anything for love (please don’t sue me Meatloaf – I can’t afford it).

You are probably wondering how this all came about. So here is a quick summary of how I ended up in this pickle.

I have fallen in love with a girl called Amy. She is the most fun and inspiring person I have ever encountered. She makes me laugh so much I want to pee myself.

Quite simply she is The One.

However today I found out that she owes $180,000 in student loans. Holy fucking shit! I’d know since we met that she had loans but I didn’t realise how much of a mountain they were. I started having an inkling that I was in for a shock when we were at a party. Amy was discussing with a friend who much she has to pay each month to the loan companies. When she said the figure - $1500 (and that was just the interest) the other woman’s jaw dropped.

I didn’t think much of it for a few days, afterall I’m English and this culture of paying through the nose for education is not something I am used to (I was one of the last years to get a full grant in the UK to go to college) so I didn’t really know if the amount she was paying each month was a lot or a little – the only thing I had to go on was the dropping of her friend’s jaw (never a good sign). So I decide to just come out and ask her.

“Er Amy ... so er … how much do you owe in student loans?”

“It’s a lot.”

“How much? More than $50,000?”

“More like $180,000.”

I can’t exactly remember what I said next but I’m pretty sure it was prefaced with a stunned silence.

Holy fucking shit.

The Beginning

AMY SAYS… With the help of a kooky Brit I have vowed to pay off $80,000 worth of debt in 6 months. This is a man I met on-line only 5 months ago! As of April 5th, I have taken $33,500 from him and agreed to move into my mother’s apartment! (Psycho soundtrack begins here).

I’m a New Yorker, born and raised. As such, I’ve experienced the best this town has to offer, but for the next 6 months Gareth and I are going to experience the best life has to offer, together, off $25 a day.

GARETH SAYS… We’re Gareth and Amy and we’re in a race to pay off $180,000 of debt in as quick a time as possible. We’re not your most conventional couple so this won’t be the most conventional blog.

Perhaps you are reading this because you know us, perhaps you are reading it because you are in debt yourself – either way we hope you find the adventure we are heading off on interesting and inspiring.

For truth, love and student loan