Tag Archives: Movies

Budgeting Happiness

money Credit: Images of Money


I have a confession. I like to spend money.

I like to treat myself to a coffee each morning from a local café or coffee shop because it kick starts my day. I like to take the East River Ferry every once in a while because the fresh crisp air in the morning sets my spirits higher than they would be if I was crunched into an overly packed subway cart. And I like to try new— sometimes-expensive activities—because trying new things brings a sense of balance to my life.

Okay, you got me. I don’t like to spend money. I love to spend money. But I didn’t always love spending. I’ve definitely spent money a lot, but I used to look at my bank account the day after a purchase—or the morning after a night at the bar—and regret my monetary choices. I used to HATE spending money, because many times spending money wasn’t bringing me happiness or joy.

Spending money is kind of like dieting. The more you tell yourself to eat less, the more time you spend thinking about food. The more you focus on how you should really spend less, the more you want to shell out the dough.

I’m not here to tell you to spend less. How much you spend is up to you. But I do want to talk about how you feel when you spend money – because this is up to you too. Take a moment to think about what you bought in the last week: Maybe it’s a new shirt, maybe it’s a movie ticket, maybe it’s lunch—I don’t know what it is. But take a moment to think about whatever it is that you bought and ask yourself these questions: “How did I feel after I made that purchase? Did that purchase bring me happiness—or regret for spending money?”

We’ve all heard the adage, “money can’t buy happiness.” I only partly agree with this. I don’t think happiness has a price tag, but I do believe that the ways we spend money and what we spend our money on contribute to our overall happiness.

One of the questions I have been asked most often throughout the hobby year has been: “How do you afford all the hobbies?”

Which really leads to a bigger question:

“How can we afford the happy and balanced life that we are seeking?”

For each of us there are certain expenses each month that we just can’t avoid:
In my case it’s rent, utilities, food, and a monthly train ticket. For others it might be a mortgage on the house, car insurance, and dependents.

The aforementioned are necessary expenses.

BUT much like cleaning out our closets from the clothes that we no longer want to wear, we can clean out the unnecessary expenses on our bank statements—the activities or outings or items that aren’t truly extending our happiness—that aren’t satisfying the lifestyle we are hoping to live.

When I moved to NYC in January of 2010, I very quickly realized how easily I could blow $50-$60 in just one night by going to an amateur comedy night on the Upper East Side. With a two-drink minimum as standard, a handful of bills could disappear at dinner alone. And the next morning? I hated myself for spending that money. But why?

As the money in my wallet began to dwindle, I had an epiphany, I realized that the glass of wine or the shot of Bacardi wasn’t satisfying me—that I was wasting money on something I didn’t ACTUALLY enjoy putting into my body. So I stopped drinking. Within weeks, I began to see an incredible difference in my money saved vs. money spent.

Once I gave up alcohol, I began to realize that there were other expenses on my bank account that likely also weren’t satisfying me or bringing me happiness.

Rather than eating out at lunch each day, I began packing my lunch for work; rather than going out to eat for dinner often, I began to cook my own dinners; and rather than buying new workout clothes, I began bringing my old field hockey shirts from high school and college back to New York City with me.

I realized that many times I was going out to eat at lunch because of feelings of laziness in the morning before work. This would actually in turn cost me three-four times the amount of money it would cost me to brown bag it.

This realization was one that made me hate spending money.

So rather than spending money on things that in turn caused me to be upset, I began saving and spending money on activities and things that I felt were helping me to balance and embrace the life that I wanted to live.

I don’t intend to suggest everyone should give up alcoholic beverages, stop buying new clothes, ignore the latest movie releases, or turn the oven on every night—unless you are an amazing cook, in which case, please do turn your oven on every night (and invite me over)!

I also don’t want to suggest that you should stand in front of an item at the store and do a cost/benefit analysis every time you are going to make a purchase.

What I am suggesting is that recognizing patterns in the types of spending that bring you happiness—and the types of things you regret spending money on in the minutes, hours, or days after you make a transaction—can help you to refocus your energy on achieving goals you’re not quite sure how to reach otherwise. The items I listed above just happen to be a few of the sacrifices I’ve been able to make for myself.

I became incredibly passionate about trying new hobbies this past year because of the joy each new hobby brought me , and because of the lessons each new hobby taught me. And because I recognized how much I was benefiting on a personal level and a physical level from each of the new things, I realized just how important it was that I budget, save, and sacrifice to contribute to the happiness I was seeking. If I’m going to spend money, I want to LOVE to spend money—and I want to love what I’m spending on.

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If there’s something you are looking to try, a class you’d really like to take, a trip you are looking to go on, try to start here:

Make a list of what you are spending your money on—then go over that list and eliminate just one thing that isn’t contributing to your health, your happiness, or your balance. Then use this money to help you achieve your goal.

Who knows? You might just fall in love with spending money, too.

Five other ways to save money:

Piggy Bank
 Credit: 401 (k) 2013

1. Invest in a piggy bank—Really. Every time you find coins—save them. Those pennies add up.

2. Look out for deals. If there’s a fitness class you’ve been looking for, a getaway you’re not sure you can afford, or a class you’re looking to take, see if Groupon, Living Social, Zozi, or Yipit has it.

3. Go through your closet and donate the clothes you no longer want to a registered charity. When you make charitable donations, you can receive tax deductions. You may not see the benefit of this immediately, but next tax season you’ll have something to smile about.

4. Piggy Backing on #3: For the holidays, see if you and your family would be willing to go in on a deal to donate the money or you would have spent on gifts or a capped amount of money to a registered charity. This way you’re doing good and receiving a tax deduction in the future.

5. Each week, or even each day, set aside 5-10 dollars. At the end of the month you’ll have your own personal pay check!

Heat Wave Hobbies

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It’s hot. 

Okay. Let me rephrase that. It’s FREAKING hot.

If you, like me, are in the northeast, you know very well that we are boiling right now. And if you are out in the desert sands of the midwest, you are just absolutely getting scorched this summer.

Let’s be honest, it’s so hot that you are lathering up your body with sun screen even to sit in the house, because you truly, honestly believe that the sun is on a mission to do nothing but scold your skin. 

The easiest way to get through a heat wave may be to sit in front of your brand new air conditioner and breathe with your tongue hanging out like a puppy dog, but it’s certainly not the most productive or more importantly-the most fun way. So I came up with a list of hobbies to help you get through your heat wave woes!  These may not be the most extreme hobbies–but they’ll definitely keep you calm, cool, and comfortable while the sun burns a hole into the earth for five straight days. 

10 HEAT WAVE HOBBIES WORTH HOARDING

1. Learn a New Instrument. While you pump up the AC, take a shot at tuning up a guitar, taking your heat wave frustrations out on a set of drums, or teaching yourself a  folk favorite on  simply a pair of spoons!

2. Make a home movie. Sure, you can lounge and watch YouTube clips all day, but why not take some time to get creative and make your own?

3. Card Games. Any. There are hundreds: Black Jack, Texas Hold ‘Em, War, Slap Jack, Egyptian Rat Scree, Rummy. The options are endless. My favorite is Cards Against Humanity. It’s the grown up version of Apples to Apples and it will keep you and your friends laughing all day long.

4. Heads Up! If you happen to have a smart phone, and somehow managed to make it into your 20’s and beyond without purchasing a single board game, download this game. Ellen Degeneres came up with it and features the charade like game on her show weekly.  While your acting out verbs, humming along your favorite tunes, and doing your best British accent, you’ll completely forget just how freaking hot it really is.

5. Crochet, Knit, Sew. While you’re ducking out of the heat, get started on your winter wardrobe. Knit a new hat. Crochet a blanket, or sew some patches over the holes in your pants! By the time the heatwave is over, you’ll be set with enough ammunition to survive he ice age.

6. Go Swimming at the pool. If you have the courage to brave the heat, at least be smart about it. Head to the NEAREST pool and cannon ball in. Then don’t get out again until you have to go home.

For kicks and giggles–my favorite pool scene ever–from the flick The Sand Lot

7. Build a fort. Sure, it seems a little childish–but who says we can’t act like children once in a while. Gather all your blankets, your pillows, and your other building utensils and get your indoor igloo going! 

8. Edit Photos. Wonder what those photos from your last vacation to the Grand Canyon,  New Mexico, or Utah would look like if you added an HDR filter? Added a bit more red? Or intensified the vibrancy?Go ahead and give it a try. By the end of the day you’ll have an entire second scrapbook of memories.

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9. Take a Class at the GYM–not just YOUR Gym, but ANY gym. To avoid the risk of drowning in a puddle of your own sweat by running outside, hit a gym and see what classes they have to offer for the day!  Look into rebounding, PoundFIT, Pole Dancing, Zumba, Hula Hooping and more!

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10. Have a Smoothie or Ice Cream Sundae Party. There’s no reason to tough out the heat alone and starved. Invite your besties over and cool off together with your favorite smoothie and ice cream recipes. Then double hobby it up by throwing in a game of Cards Against Humanity or a few rounds of Heads Up!

And because I remember eating an banana split ice cream sundae every time I watched this as a kid, thought I’d take you back to the good ole days with the theme song of one of the best TV shows ever:

Stay cool at their friends and share your the hobbies you think are worth hoarding during a heat wave!

48 Hour Film Project: NYC

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I am staring at the clock. It’s 3:23 AM. Traffic is moving in a very specific rhythm outside. I watch as lights cast shadows through my friend’s living room, and I restlessly try to catch some shut eye. I close my eyes, but like a kid waiting for her birthday, I can’t fall asleep. I’m too anxious. I’m too excited for what’s ahead. We are only eight hours into the 48 Hour Film Project (NYC), a competition that asks groups of filmmakers to create a 4-7 minute short film in under 48 hours. Filmmaking. THIS is the HOBBY and CAREER I moved to New York City for. And while I’ve done much of my own filmmaking and video work–I’ve never ever taken part in a film competition. This is what we call: Awesome. As I open my eyes again and stare at the ceiling, I can feel my excitement only growing with each echo of each car that passes under the bridge outside. We’ve finished our our script, we’ve plotted our shot list, and in three hours we are going to wake up to shoot a movie. And all I am thinking in my head is “Hell. Freaking. Yah.”

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It can be very lonely in New York City–especially when you first move here.

 I moved to New York City in January of 2010, and I can remember, very vividly, two months into my move, walking out of my internship, calling my best friend on the phone, and crying to her for an hour about how lonely I was–how I didn’t know if I could make it here–how I wanted desperately to be able to make friends who were creative, who were ready to collaborate, who were passionate, who were looking to make things happen–BIG things–earth shaking things-friends who were ready to take on the world as if it were Mount Everest and fight hard earned battles to make it to the top.

What I’ve learned from that loneliness is a lesson in persistence, and in patience, and in passion.

I realized that I couldn’t make these friends that I was seemingly struggling to find if I didn’t put myself out there, if I didn’t take an initiative to start and to create myself. This city is comprised of 8 million people–I can’t break down the stats for you on where they are all from–or how they all got here, but I can safely say that many of these people are searching for a light in a tunnel that leads to success–a light in a tunnel that may perhaps lead to a Broadway Stage, or a credit on a feature film; a light in a tunnel that may lead to a sold out concert at SummerStage or a part in Shakespeare in the Park; a light in a tunnel that leads to a metaphorical pot of gold symbolizing that all dreams did indeed come true.

I knew that within those eight million people, amidst all of the skyscrapers, all of the Broadway shows, and all of the chaos of the city that these people were out there. I just had to be very clear that I too was one of these dreamers.

And then it happened.

I made a good friend through my internship, who could see my passion and my drive as I shared my latest projects and or films with her. She could also see my willingness to put myself out there and to openly express my interest in “making it” in order, not to be famous, but rather to make an impact on another person’s life.  And so she introduced me to many of her friends in the Big Apple.

She, herself, was a young makeup artist who was working on TV shows and movies. And her friends? Young cooks, young  chefs, young musicians, young actors, young filmmakers, young producers, young directors, young writers, younger performers, young singers. Most of them worked shifts at Ruby Tuesdays to pay the bills. But what stood out more than anything to me, was that like me–they were all dreamers. And they still are.

Since that first year of living in New York City, I have maintained many of the friendships I have made with these friends. And I am proud of that. I have seen each of them do amazing work. I’ve seen dreams transition to realities–and I’ve seen passion and persistence and patience, all the things I needed in order to make these friends, play out in extremely rewarding ways.

Our conversations extend from general “How are yous?” to endless banter, debates and smiles over all things creative.

“You liked that movie? But it didn’t have this, this or this….” and “But his acting in this was far superior to his acting in…” “I just think he should have never made that film.”

I always wondered when I’d get the chance to sit down and work with some of the people I connected with when I first moved here.

That answer was this weekend, for the 48 Hour Film Project, in which a team of 14 of us, organized by my good friend Kim, took on the aforementioned challenge to create a 4-7 minute film in just 48 hours.

On that team were  6 individuals from that initial group of friends that I forged friendships with founded on a common love of film, television, and theatre. On that team were also 7 individuals that I had never had the pleasure to meet before–but who I can’t imagine not surrounding myself with again.

Each team must enter with a team name, and when the festival kicks off each team must select at random a genre. After the genre is chosen, EVERY team must then make sure that they include three specific details within their film: a specific character, a prop, and a line (Genres differ but specific details remain consistent for all teams). All of this is noted here.

Our Team: Ruby Squared Productions
Our Genre: Dark Comedy
Character: Cat or Cam Dean–an ad executive
Prop: Trophy
Line: When do you expect her?

In less than 48 hours, we scripted, we crafted, we envisioned, we executed, we edited, we composed, we exported, and we delivered a 6:30 minute dark comic film; a 6:30 minute film that gave us all a little reminder why we came to New York, why that patience and persistence in pursuing our passions mattered and what we are truly capable of when we take on a challenge and attack it together, and lastly a little reminder what happens when the talking stops and the making of films starts: Magic.

In his book, Here is New York, E.B White writes: “There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something…Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion.”

Here’s to the settlers that I had the brilliant opportunity to work with this past weekend:
Alex Zingaro, Brandon Jacobs, Brandon Opel, Brandon Pro, Chris Grady, Kimberly DiPersia, MaryLynn Suchan, Matt Van Vorst, Megan Magee, Nate Smith, Robert DeSanti, Sean Gallagher, and Shannon Kendall.

And here’s to being patient, persistent, and passionate.

Here are some stills of the production process:

IMG_1779Photo Credit Megan Magee

IMG_1796Photo Credit Megan Magee

IMG_1792Photo Credit Megan Magee

sound Photo Credit MaryLynn Suchan

PreproPhoto Credit MaryLynn Suchan


RoofPhoto Credit MaryLynn Suchan

AND basically how we all felt after:

mattPhoto Credit Shannon Kendall

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