Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Newbie's Take on Airline Rewards Programs

Apparently, I'm going to Las Vegas next month! With ridiculously cheap weekday hotel room rates and soon to be expiring deals from airlines like Southwest and Virgin America, it's prime time for a cheap Vegas vacation (if you can handle the heat)! More on this in another post.

After booking my tickets, I spent several hours signing up for and redeeming mileage points from various airline rewards programs. It was actually my first time dealing with airline rewards since I don't fly on my own that often. Here are a few things I learned in the process:

1) Sign up for the rewards program before booking the flight: I booked my flights before signing up for the programs, and hence wasted a good amount of time trying to figure out how to get my flights retroactively credited.

2) Don't wait too long to get your points credited: Most airlines will only credit points up to 3 to 12 months after your flight. Don't wait or you may lose your points forever!

3) Don't hesitate to ask for expired points: Call center representatives have a lot of power. When I called United Airlines asking for points that expired 9 months ago, they credited my account. Airline companies want your business, and will do what it takes if it means you'll fly with them again or enroll in their credit card program. Unfortunately for the kind United call center rep, I declined the credit card. However, I'll definitely fly United again at some point!

4) Don't pay to be part of special airline discount programs: Unless you plan on traveling a lot with a single airline company, then it's probably not worth paying to be part of airline rewards or discount club programs. Make sure to read all the fine print so you're not surprised with a bill. The same concept applies for a credit card - not worth it unless you fly regularly with a single carrier.

Traveling is fun, so why not make the most of your money by getting some rewards points! Thanks to these programs, I hope to someday earn myself a free flight or two!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Discounted Restaurant Food

One of my vices is going out for food. While I know I can save tons of money with a home cooked meal, I simply like going to a restaurant every now and then and enjoying the ambiance, the people watching, the food, and not having to do dishes afterwards. Unfortunately, with my plans to move out soon, I should probably curtail my eating out habits... or try to get more food for less money!

Deal of the day sites such as Groupon, Townhog, and LivingSocial have increased in popularity these past few years. While I've used these places to get discounts on shopping, I've predominantly taken advantage of the great restaurant offers. Thanks to deal of the day sites, I've been able to try food from places that otherwise would have been out of my price range. My boyfriend and I have also gone on numerous dates to nice restaurants while only paying half price.

Once I'm moved out, I anticipate I'll be more diligent in checking these sites daily for deals. Every dollar spent is an extra dollar to spend on something else!

Moving Out: A Debate of Values

Yesterday, I received a call from one of my jobs asking me if I wanted to try working at a few more hospitals. I happily agreed, as this would definitely give me more working hours and an opportunity to check out other facilities. Also, these hospitals are far enough away from my home that I would be "forced" to move. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that things work out so I can put the apartment search into high gear and have my own place by next month.

While my mom is pleased at the idea of me working at more hospitals - especially ones with more name recognition - she is not pleased with the idea that I will probably be moving soon. In a conversation we had earlier, my mom reiterated that children who move out after college are ungrateful to their parents for not staying. My mom complained that she hasn't had a chance to "enjoy my company" since I've only been at home for a year. She stated that if I had siblings, I'd still be living at home paying for their college tuition.

I suppose I should try to cut my mom some slack, as her perspective is based on a set of personal beliefs she terms "Filipino values" (which of course varies from Filipino to Filipino). My mom came from a family that obligates older children to return after college to help the parents and younger children financially. Since children are not allowed to work while in school/university, this is a way to repay the parents for their financial sacrifices. Typically, children live at home until they get married, or longer if the spouses become parts of the household.

As someone who grew up exposed to a different set of values, I view moving out after college as a sign that parents have raised successful children who no longer need to rely on them. Adult children can still help their parents financially and emotionally if necessary, and certainly do not need to live at home to do so. Parents are not going to be around forever, hence I feel it's necessary that adult children grow their own wings and learn to take care of themselves. If my mom views financial independence and non-reliance on the parents as such a bad thing, then why put so much pressure on me to overachieve? My mom (along with many of her friends/family members) certainly doesn't see things this way, and I question whether we'll ever come to a compromise when it comes to this issue.

Many of my friends and co-workers have children whom they can't wait to kick out of the house. Most of these children do not have a means to survive without their parents, with some not even trying to get jobs because they feel their parents will support them indefinitely. My problem is the complete opposite. I can only hope that I can eventually get my parents to interpret my leaving as a sign that they have done their part as parents, not a slap in the face by an ungrateful daughter.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

More Moving Out Woes

As you all know, I've been in the process of apartment hunting so I can move out of my parents' house. It's been a rather stressful process, and has resulted in numerous arguments with my parents these past few weeks.

To break it down, here are my main arguments for moving out:
1) Driving an hour each way to get to work is tiring, and by the end of the day I often get sleepy behind the wheel. Living closer to my jobs will give me a shorter commute and more time to work on side projects. Also, living somewhere near public transportation will allow me to take advantage of my job's commuter check program, saving even more on costs. Currently, I pay over $300 a month in gasoline.
2) I'm in my late 20s, have a job, and can afford to move out. It's time.
3) I personally find it embarrassing being a boomerang kid. Part of the reason I got a masters degree was to be able to sustain myself enough such that I can live on my own.
4) Social work burnout as a result of living at home.

My parents' arguments for staying at home are as follows:
1) Living at home will allow me to save money. While I've tried to pay my parents money for rent, they've refused. Hence I am saving a good amount of money on rent, food, and utilities.
2) My parents believe that renting an apartment is simply throwing away my money. They want me to live at home until I can buy a house (and not a condo).
3) My parents are concerns about my choice to work multiple per diem jobs instead of one full time job. They don't seem to comprehend that I picked this non-traditional job schedule due to its flexibility, and that things won't change for a few years.
4) In my parents' country, kids live at home until marriage. They tell me that if I'm going to get married in the next 5 years, I might as well live at home until then. In 5 years, I'll be in my early 30s.
*By the way, I have a boyfriend of two years. Living with him before marriage is not an option because it will get me disowned by my parents and make me the Hester Prynne of my family.
5) My parents feel that if I rent a room in a house, I might as well stay at home with them. They also worry that having roommates will put me in physical danger.
6) I can apparently do what I want living at home (not true), so why leave?.
7) My parents view the concept of kids moving out as "abandoning their parents". "Next, they'll throw us in a nursing home to die."

I am thankful that my parents are allowing me to live at home, unlike a lot of people I know out there. However, now that I am able to sustain myself, I find it frustrating and disempowering that they do not want me to leave. My parents view autonomy negatively, and tell me stories about friends' kids who have jobs and are able to pay for things like weddings and houses without parental help as if it's a bad thing. While I understand the fears associated with me leaving, my parents' attempts to keep me at home is making me want to break away even more.

It seems as if the more my parents and I discuss moving out, the more nervous I feel. They do make good points about saving money by living at home. In fact, I currently have enough money in the bank to sustain myself for probably a year if necessary. If I were to live at home for another year or two, I could definitely afford the 20% down on a house. However, I'm not sure if buying is worth it if you stay for less than 5 years, as who knows where I'll be then.

I think I know what my choice will be when it comes to moving out. I'll just have to continue reminding myself that in this situation, having money is not equating to happiness. While moving out will not necessarily mean freedom, it's certainly a step in that direction.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Carmageddon!

I don't know much about what's going on in Southern California with the shutdown of the 405 freeway. However, you know your public transportation system is flawed when you need to take an airplane to travel a distance of roughly 40 miles. This is almost the same distance separating the airports in San Francisco and San Jose.

I suppose this is another reason I'm lucky to live in the Bay Area. Between buses, BART, and Caltrain, I have many ways to get around if my car is ever unavailable. Bay Area public transportation is great, and location relative to public transport has played a key factor in my apartment search. My eventual plan is to rely primary on buses and BART to get to work, and use discounted commuter checks provided by my job to save money on fares.

Good luck to everyone that will be affected by the 405 shutdown! I will admit that $4 (with $1 extra for first class) is a great deal to ride JetBlue . Definitely something I would have considered if I lived down there.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

You have got to be kidding me...

According to an article posted on the NASW blog, actor Charlie Sheen is involved in a new project where he plays a social worker with anger management issues. The profession is already often misrepresented and poorly portrayed in the media. Having Charlie Sheen play a scriptwriter's portrayal of a "social worker" can only mean more bad publicity for our profession.

What sets social work apart from other jobs such as politicians, soldiers, doctors, and nurses is that the public has a general idea of what these professions do. When it comes to social work, our profession is often associated with child welfare. Hence, social workers are typically seen in antagonistic "baby snatcher" roles on TV and film. While Charlie Sheen won't be playing a child welfare social worker on his new show, I'm still skeptical he will provide a remotely respectable imitation of the profession.

Furthermore, many dramas and films use medical, political, and military consultants to review scripts (i.e. House, The West Wing, and Battle: Los Angeles). I have yet to hear of a social worker consultant that works for Hollywood to ensure our profession is portrayed correctly. Until this happens, expect to continue seeing very telescopic interpretations of how social work in roles written and edited by non-social workers.

I doubt I'll watch Charlie Sheen's new show, but I'm sure I'll probably have to defend social work at some point as a result. It's the least I can do to help combat the nonsense perpetuated by popular media.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Happy 7/11!

Good morning! This is my first mobile post!

In honor of 7/11, 7-11 will be giving away free slurpies today! A great way to treat yourself on this summer Monday!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

How Other Professions View Social Work

Yesterday, I was talking to my mom about how the RN case managers at one of my jobs often have to stay several hours after their shift making reports to different insurance companies. My mom, a bedside nurse of over 20 years, scoffed at the idea of RN case managers having stressful jobs and stated, "All they do is talk and sit in front of a computer all day. Their job is so easy." In the past, my mom has made similar comments about social work, stating that all we do is "talk to people", while people like her have to clean bodily fluids and give medication. Hence, my mom feels that MSW salaries are fair when compared to Associates and Bachelor's degrees in nursing.

I feel that despite being a nurse for so long, my mom still lacks understanding of what social workers and RN case managers do in a hospital setting. While I do try to educate her, my mom frequently reminds me that I am a "rookie" and that she has been in the field for 20 years. Out or respect for her work experience - and my sanity - I try not to engage in extended debates with her when she brings up the subject.

However, these conversations with my mom make me wonder about how other medical professions view social work. I know that my RN case manager co-workers value the services we provide, with some even advocating for social worker salary raises because we do the same discharging planning work as they do. But what about bedside nurses, therapists, pharmacists, doctors, and others who don't see what we're doing all day? I realize that there will always be "rivalries" between different professions, but shouldn't we acknowledge the unique contributions of each job in providing care instead of making diminishing statements about one other? I'd definitely like to see my mom work in case management one day and see if she still finds it "easy" afterwards.

In other news, I'm still working on finding a place to live. Haven't found an ideal place yet, but I'm keeping my hopes up!