Tag Archives: Chicago Public Radio

Tips For Adulthood: Five Ways To Live Frugally

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

I’ve just moved. One of the things that happens when you move is that you get a chance to reassess your life . You reconnect with your past, you re-imagine your future and you start noticing things about your life that might have passed you by because you hadn’t opened a certain cupboard in four years.

One of the things I’ve noticed is how frugally our family lives in London compared to when we lived in the United States. Some of that has to do with the global economic recession of the past few years, some of it with the exchange rate, and some of it with the exorbitant cost of living in London.

But we’ve also made some smart choices about how to cut costs and I thought I’d share some of those with you today:

1. Don’t buy books. OK, this may sound insane coming from someone who regularly posts about books and reading, but it’s a good piece of advice. Owning a lot of books not only wastes a tremendous amount of space, but you have to ask yourself  how often you actually re-read them. (In my case: almost never.) Books are expensive. The average hardcover book retails for about $26 right now. Whereas in the library, you’ve got loads of choices and they’re all free. So as long as you request them sufficiently in advance, the sky’s the limit to how many books you can read without ever spending a cent. (OK, I’m not counting late fees….)

2. Don’t buy movies. I have a good friend here in London who watches a lot of films. But whenever I recommend one to him, he always says “Great! I’ll go buy it this afternoon!” This friend isn’t loaded and I always wonder why on earth he spends so much money on movies when you can subscribe to something like Netflix (US) or LoveFilm (UK) and see all the movies you like for a low monthly fee. (Or get them at the library for nothing. See above). We own a few films, but most of them are for the kids and almost all have been presents. It just strikes me as a really easy way to cut down your budget without losing out on anything.

3. Make your own coffee. This one is a no-brainer. If you add up all the money you spend on buying coffee out everyday – let’s say you spend $2.50/day on some kind of fancy coffee drink, that adds up really quickly:  $16/week, $74/month, $888 a year to be precise. (This is, by the way, is exactly the sort of logic we used to use when I worked at Chicago Public Radio in order to exhort listeners to donate to our station.) For $800, you can buy a really nice espresso machine these days, and possibly even a grinder to go with it. I’ve gotten to the point where I actually prefer my own coffee to the stuff they sell on the High Street. I can even send you a video on the optimal way to tamp your espresso (free of charge.)

4. Buy second-hand items. For years I resisted this. Part of the reason was that my mother always shopped at vintage clothing stores when I was growing up and for that reason alone, I was hell-bent on not doing it. But now I see her infinite wisdom. And it’s not just clothing. We’ve furnished half of our flat in London with (really nice) second-hand furniture that we’ve acquired from other American families who come here for a few years and then move on. Over the past few years, we’ve chalked up sofas, rugs, waffle makers, night lights, you name it…and all at a really moderate price. I’m a member of a local women’s group that lists such second-hand sales as part of its services. But many schools, churches and other community organizations do this sort of thing regularly. So keep your eyes peeled…there are some real treasures out there and people are often dying to offload them.

5. Do some travel writing. Granted, this one is going to be easier to implement for the journalists and writers out there. But it’s amazing what kinds of deals you can get on hotels and travel arrangements if you agree to do a review. We’ve done a ton of traveling around Europe over the past few years – to places like Helsinki and Vienna and Croatia – and most of it has been possible because I arranged to do a review of the hotel where we were staying. Note: you don’t necessarily have to be a professional writer to score this kind of gig. One site that I write for is mostly just a bunch of mums offering tips for family-friendly travel. And once you’ve done one of these reviews, getting more gigs is a piece of cake. Try it! You *will* like it.

Image: Unphotographable Otto Espresso Machine by CoffeeGeek via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Tips For Adulthood: Five Reasons You Should Listen To The BBC

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

One of the many pleasures of living in the U.K. is that I have unlimited access to BBC Radio. I remember back when I lived in the States – and worked at Chicago Public Radio – I used to feel a bit put off when BBC programming came on. It felt too distant, too proper and – let’s face it – too mature.

I don’t feel that way anymore. I can’t get enough of BBC radio, and here are five reasons you should be listening too:

1. It’s combative. Much as I love National Public Radio in the U.S., NPR news programs can feel a bit…polite. Perhaps because the network is trying really hard to fight the perception that has a liberal bias, the talk show hosts go out of their way to be deferential and even-handed. Not here. Sure, the BBC tilts Left, but the “presenters” (as they’re called) are just as rough on Gordon Brown as they are on David Cameron. Have a listen to Radio Four’s James Naughtie interviewing just about anyone and ask yourself if you’ve ever heard anything like it on Morning Edition. It’s really refreshing to hear journalists who aren’t afraid to take the gloves off, without devolving into shrill partisanship.

2. It’s broad. The range of programming offered is – frankly – amazing. Just the other day, I was listening to some in-depth analysis of the latest bank restructuring over here. Next up? A retrospective on Somerset Maugham. I’m not kidding. And it’s like that all week long. One of my favorite programs is something called Desert Island Discs, where some famous person is interviewed about the eight pieces of music they’d bring with them if they were stuck on a desert island. What a concept!

3. It’s Informative. I think one of the sticking points for US listeners is that the BBC reports on such a broad range of topics geographically. This is true of domestic programming (Radio 4) and especially true of the BBC World Service. Americans just aren’t used to listening to *that much* foreign news. But once you get used to hearing about the latest governance debacle in Zimbabwe, it’s incredibly eye-opening and informative. (And, BTW, they do a great job with American coverage, in particular.)

4. It’s Quirky. Because – relative to NPR, at least – the BBC is incredibly well-funded, it can afford to do all sorts of odd, quirky programming alongside its flagship news shows. So, for example, radio plays are hugely popular over here. When I first moved to London, I found myself switching off The Archers (the longest running and most popular of these) whenever it came on. Now, three years later, I’m oddly drawn into this ongoing saga about families in the Midlands and have developed a sort of affection towards it.

5. It’s on all night! At least if you live in America, you can often hear top-drawer BBC programming in the middle of the night. And since we’re all insomniacs anyway, what’s there to lose? Have a listen…and see for yourself.

Image: Radio Daze by Ian Hayhurst via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Slash Careers Within Writing: My New Stint at Politics Daily

As I’ve said several times before on this blog, I’m a big fan of slash careers. Having multiple professional identities is a great way to make a living as a freelancer (particularly during a recession).  It’s also a great way – especially if you’re a writer – to exercise different parts of your brain. In my case, it helps to explain why I’ve been such an avid fundraiser for my children’s school over the past few years.

But another way to keep yourself stimulated as a writer is to slash within your writing. I know a political scientist who also writes children’s songs. One of my favorite writers – Anne Lamott – has written a best-selling parenting memoir, Operating Instructions, a “how to” book on writing, Bird By Bird, as well as several novels. My guess is that there’s something about moving around within all these different genres that keeps her alive as a writer.

In that vein, I’m delighted to announce that I’ve become a contributor to a new political webzine in Washington, D.C. called Politics Daily. I’ll be writing two posts a week for their Woman Up column (where – and I quote – “big girl panties are always a fit,”) as well as occasional features.

My first feature – an interview with an international legal scholar here in the U.K. about the ongoing torture debate in the U.S. – ran on Friday. Check it out here and leave a comment if you dare! (Buyer Beware: I’m coming to learn that the comment section on political websites can be a scary place…be sure to wear your own plus-sized boxers/briefs/panties/thongs/undergarments/what-have-you if you plan on going there…).

For me, this new gig is particularly exciting because it allows me to fuse my background in politics/policy analysis and journalism back into my writing career. In the last few years, I’ve been working as a freelance writer, focusing mainly on personal essays, blogging and fiction. But before that, I worked as a producer for Chicago Public Radio. And before that, I taught political science at the University of Chicago.

So it felt great to roll up my sleeves and dive back into the sort of research, interviewing and reporting that goes into being a journalist. And it was also a lot of fun to return to the sorts of international topics that I once taught and wrote about as a scholar. Above all, however, the experience confirmed for me – once again – that careers really don’t have to be linear anymore. These days, it’s all about the kaleidoscope, baby.

I’ll be sure to highlight pieces I write for Politics Daily when they are relevant to RealDelia.

In the meantime, take a moment to think about your own slash careers – real or potential. What sorts of things have you added or would you like to add to your career portfolio?

Image: Reporter’s Notebook, US Version by Nicla via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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