School is in session! 15 back to school tips

I had the Billy Madison “Back to School” song stuck in my head as I prepared to start my first day of classes last Thursday. I reflected on my academic career and thought about resources I wish I had known about prior to graduating.

The first day of class can be daunting and if you are a first year student, you often are clueless about the resources available to college students.

I decided to pull together a brief list of resources and articles I thought could be helpful to new or returning students.



Often times you are living off a stipend or refund check. Creating a budget and finding a scholarship can be useful ways to save money while in college.


You are in school to succeed professionally, socially, and academically. Make the most of all the academic resources available on campus


To me a campus is like a small town, so it is important to be mindful of the environmental impact of all the students, staff, faculty, and facilities.

Social Media 

You wrote or posted something silly on social media and quickly deleted. All clear right? Not necessarily. Screenshots have the been demise of many. Before you hit send or take a wild photo, make sure it is something you don’t mind digitally following you and being attached to your reputation.

Graduate School 

Entrance into graduate school means the level of expectations is high. Take the time to learn the ropes.


Depending on your major you will write many papers. Even if you do not have a major that requires significant writing, I suggest learning the basics.


Being organized has helped me tremendously in my life. Find something that works for you and stick to the plan; it will make things go smoothly.


In addition to studying and planning your career, remember to laugh and enjoy yourself.


Any great resources or articles you would add to this list?



An urban planning PhD student finding  peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.

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Photo Credit: Maryam



Food on a budget Tip #2: Make a budget

I realized I jumped ahead of myself and didn’t even mention that before you can eat food on a budget, you must make a budget!

Where do you start? One good resource is the USDA Cost of Food at Home database. This database dating back to 1994 lists suggested per week spending on food. What I like about this guideline is that it breaks down cost per week, year, age, sex, and spending style (thrifty, low, moderate, liberal).

Use this guideline as your starting point. I try to keep my cost level at thrifty/low, meaning  as of June 2013 statistics,  for my age and sex, I’m spending roughly $162 – $203 per month.

I also add on an additional $20 for going out to eat per month and $10 per month for household items.

Budget wisely

If I reach my budget limit for the month, that is it! I need to either ‘borrow’ money from another one of my budget categories (only when you really have nothing to eat)  or eat P&J for the remainder of the month.

On the other hand if I don’t reach my budget limit, I roll it over to the next month or I transfer that money to one of my saving goals like travel. I prefer to just take that money and put it towards my travel goal because I really want to travel. But, it is a month by month decision. For example, it might be beneficial to keep rolling over money for those circumstances like hosting friends for Thanksgiving or brunch.

Just some other  money saving thoughts:

If you don’t keep a budget and you just spend money on the fly, I suggest using the website You Need a Budget (save $6 with this link). It has been useful to me and I recommend it for those who need a nudge in the right direction.

If your goal is to increase your net worth, than you need to learn how to save, spend wisely, and of course earn money. In order for me to reach my financial goals, I needed to evaluate my spending habits and strictly adhere to a budget. That may mean you have friends that side eye you when you say you can’t go out for happy hour 5x in a month, but at the end of the day, it’s your money and your comfort level not theirs.

Make a budget and stick to it. If you get a promotion at work and increased pay, great! But, be wary of increasing your spending habits. You won’t get wealthy by increasing your material goods every time you make more money. Stay within your old limits and stack that new money.

Food is one area that is easy to spend out of control and I hope that with these tips, you will be able to eat healthy and well on a budget.

These are the two Food on a Budget segments:

1. Food on a Budget Tips. This will be weekly. I’ve been brainstorming and I’m up to 25 tips, but please feel free to send over any thoughts, questions, and ideas, and I will answer them. Be sure to subscribe to this blog to stay updated.

2. Food on a Budget Pictures. I will post pictures on various social media sites(make sure you are following me). I will also share the cost per serving, what I purchased, and what I spent on groceries for the week/month.

Food is a major interest of mine, so I’m happy my cousin suggested I share my strategies!

I hope I am helpful.



An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.

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Photo Credit: Tax Credits

Time travel and other road trip reflections

Hello from Arizona!

I arrived safely in Arizona on August 5th after taking a week long road trip from New York to Arizona and making stops in Atlanta, New Orleans, and El Paso.  I finally feel settled in, comfortable, and ready to start blogging again.

It was a wonderful experience to drive through the United States and take in the culture and environmental landscapes of various states.

Time Travel

Driving through all the different time zones made me feel like Marty McFly from the Back to the Future Series. It really started to mess with me while driving through the LONG (not Lone) state of Texas. When I turned to my brother to ask him the time he told me 2 a.m., when I turned to me brother again for the time he told me 2 a.m. We hit 2 a.m. twice and reality hit;  the GPS time of arrival was not based on where we left, but where we were going. I think it was at that moment it sunk in for both of us that we really were driving from New York to Arizona with only gravel, darkness, and beautiful stars as our surroundings.


The United States is beautiful. As we left the metro areas of  New York and Atlanta and started to venture into Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Texas, the sky began to look clear. As we approached El Paso, the sky was so breathtaking that I was distracted. The brightness of stars and the clarity of the sky showcased the world beyond Earth. When it is just you and the road you start to reflect on life. That backdrop of the  clear sky and stars had me thinking. The best part of my trip was seeing two shooting stars while driving through Texas. It was amazing and it felt like validation that I am on the right track. I recommend a road trip be added to everyone’s bucket list!




Mississippi was pretty, but the bridge structures were scary to drive across, especially in the rain. The people were friendly and I had some comic relief at the rest stop; talk about perpetuating regional stereotypes!

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New Orleans

My brother and I ate a lot of food on the trip. A lot of food I normally would never eat, but it was worth it. The best food hands down was New Orleans. Is it weird that I still think about one of the meals?!  I don’t enjoy oysters, but my friend told me to try this charbroiled oysters with parmesan cheese and bread. Wow! It was amazing. My brother was adamant that he wouldn’t try the oysters, but in the end he ate more than everyone!

The city has a 19th century feel to it and has beautiful architecture. We were able to drive around the city and see the areas that were hit by  Hurricane Katrina. It was interesting to see that years later that homes were still damaged. It was also interesting to see the new homes that were built, were nice, but seemed out of place in the neighborhoods.

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Arizona is beautiful and hot. I am getting used to the neighborhood, but so far I am enjoying myself. I am a frequent guest blogger on ‘On the Brink’, check out my post that I wrote about my new city and sustainability.  I have plenty of pictures and thoughts about Tempe and Arizona State University, which I wrote about over on that blog.


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Riding in a vehicle for a long period of time is not for everyone. Driving a vehicle for a long period of time is not for everyone. You really need to have patience, a sense of adventure, and stamina. I love to drive because it is just me, the radio, the road, and my thoughts. I want to take another road trip, traveling through the midwest and the up the west coast. But, after driving about 3000 miles, I am ready to just sit back for several months.

Up Next

My first class of my urban planning doctorate journey starts this morning! I’ve been working on a schedule and I hope I will be able to blog at least once  a week on various topics, but bear with me if you don’t see a blog post. Do stay connected with me on social media, even if I don’t have time to formulate a full blog post, I do often post images or short thoughts on FacebookInstagram, Pinterest, and Twitter .


An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.

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Inequality exists in many forms

Inequality exists in many forms. In this case it is a mixed income housing development in New York City.

In order to build a larger per square unit condo, the developers had to include affordable housing.

This 274 unit condo will include 55 affordable housing units. The problem? The 55 affordable housing units will be separate from the 274 units, not facing the river, and will have a separate door entrance.

Some ways you can stop future housing inequality issues:

1. Attend your neighborhood zoning and town meetings. These meetings often aren’t attended by residents and developers and law makers go ahead with development projects. If you attend meetings and speak up, you will let them know you are paying attention to your community.

2. Vote or run for office. If you don’t like the polices, vote for new officials or run for office.

3. Stay informed. The news is on a loop. If you watch the 6 o’clock news, I can guarantee the 11 o’clock news will be showing the same thing. Start subscribing to bloggers, independent papers, and follow interesting people on social media. With mobile technology, communication is at our finger tips; often people on the ground have the real scoop.

4. Tell a friend. Sometimes people just don’t know. Tell a friend and spread the news. Word of mouth is still a useful tool.

Grassroots movements can still make a difference.



An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.

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Photo Credit: Extell Development Company