My Favorite Things: The Billfold

the billfold

I fell into reading the personal finance (PF) blogging world about two years ago. New to the job market and overwhelmed by all of the information getting thrown at me about savings and 401(k)s and benefits, I turned to personal finance blogs as a way to sort of filter all of the “noise” I was encountering and to see what real, live people were doing with their finances. I was always conscious of the fact that different financial rules apply to different situations; I didn’t turn to PF blogs as an failsafe resource because that would have been ridiculously stupid. Rather, I turned to PF blogs as a way to see how different personal finance “rules” were being applied in real time to actual people’s lives.

I’ve fallen out of like with a lot of the personal finance blogs I once read, namely because I got tired of reading SEO content/poor writing and posts by staff writers. Since I had purged the majority of PF blogs I used to read from Feedly, I was at a bit of a loss for how to fill the PF-shaped hole in my feed reader. Then I stumbled across The Billfold, courtesy of NZ Muse. An entire website with a treasure trove of an archive filled with good writing about a topic as broad and varied as money? SCORE. Taken from their about page:

The Billfold is not another personal finance site. A personal finance site is a site for people who have decided to overhaul their financial lives, and want help doing it. We are a site about money. We are interested in people’s lives and how funds make those lives awesome, and not-so-awesome.

The Billfold aims to do away with the misbelief that talking about difficult money issues is uncomfortable, and create a space to have an honest conversation about how we save, spend and repay our debts. We are going to break one of the last taboos in our culture—talking about what you earn, what you spend, what you owe.

I’ve spent hours getting lost in The Billfold’s archives, which is likely apparent to anyone with a good memory and a close eye on my weekly link love roundups. I firmly believe that The Billfold is a site that will interest just about anyone — at least, anyone who’s as curious about other people’s lives and fascinated by the topic of money as I am. Some of my more favorite sections include How Other People Do Money, Rental Histories, and My Last Hundred Bucks. (I’ve even written a guest post for My Last Hundred Bucks.) I also enjoy the series they’ve done on “How the Baby-Sitter’s Club Does Money” and “How Wizards Do Money.”

That’s only scratching the tip of what The Billfold offers in its archives, but it’s a good place to start for anyone who’s in the market for a new favorite website. Personally, I’m off for my daily read of The Billfold’s homepage…

Recently Read #2

recently read 2

Since my last recently read post was well-received and I’m making decent headway in my 25 books for 2014 challenge, let’s take another look at the books I’ve read recently, shall we? This month I’m linking up with Kiki for the monthly #thecirclelinkup!

Peony in Love

I’ve always seen Lisa See’s books in bookstores but for whatever reason, I never picked one up until I came across PEONY IN LOVE at a book sale. For $1, how could I not pick up the paperback? I’m glad I did; PEONY IN LOVE was a great read and definitely left me wanting to read more of See’s work! A story of love that transcends this world and the next, See weaves together elements of Chinese tradition, history and folklore masterfully. Time to read more of her books!

This Lullaby

THIS LULLABY is my second favorite Sarah Dessen novel, tied with THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER. (SOMEONE LIKE YOU will always be my favorite Dessen book.) I loved this as a teen and have read it multiple times, but for some odd reason, this latest reread didn’t stick as well with me as it did when I was 13. Is it because I’m older than the characters in the book? I guess, because the last time I read THIS LULLABY I had yet to fall in love and I guess that experience made me a little jaded when it comes to Remy and Dexter. Who knows?

Mary Poppins

I absolutely loved reading MARY POPPINS in grade school so when I saw they were available on Amazon Kindle, I snapped them up right away. It’s very different than the Disney movie, but I love this version of MARY POPPINS no more, no less than the movie adaptation. The first four books in the MARY POPPINS series are available on Amazon Kindle and I can’t wait to relive a part of my childhood by rereading all of them.

Old Town

I can’t remember the last time I didn’t finish a book. I really hate doing that; I try to finish reading a book always because otherwise I feel like I’ve wasted time on the part of the book I have already read. But OLD TOWN by Lin Zhe broke me. I’m not sure if it was the story or the translation, but the pacing of this book was godawful and I could really have done away with the religious references. Maybe I’ll pick this up and give it another go at some point in the future, but I can’t see that happening while I have a lot of anticipated good books on my to read list.

The Night Circus

Oh, how I loved THE NIGHT CIRCUS! Emily Morgenstern really brought the circus to life, and I loved how vividly described this book was. It was really as though I was there, and could picture all aspects of the circus around me. I just… I can’t properly articulate how much I loved this book. I didn’t want it to end, yet I couldn’t put it down. A superb, superb read.

What books have you read lately?

In Its Time

Global Eats: Hong Kong-Style Milk Tea

Hong Kong-style milk tea

If someone were to ask me what the taste of Hong Kong would be, I’d close my eyes and say with a smile, “Milk tea.”

Not just any ordinary milk tea, mind you. The only milk tea worth having in Hong Kong is Hong Kong-style milk tea, where evaporated or condensed milk is used. This style of tea is also referred to as “silk stocking” or “pantyhose” milk tea as traditionally, silk stockings were used as filters for the tea leaves. Nowadays, a sackcloth bag is used. This filtering system purportedly makes the tea taste smoother.

Milk tea is ubiquitous in Hong Kong cafes (“cha chaan tengs”) and the mixture of tea leaves used are a closely guarded secret by each establishment that serves it. (It’s usually a mix of pu-erh and ceylon.) Served hot or cold, milk tea is delicious on any given day. In Hong Kong, milk tea holds the same status that coffee does in the West. Milk tea is frequently overlooked by foreigners or tour guides in favor of traditional Chinese tea or high teas. Oddly enough, I’m okay with that; it just means more milk tea for myself and the locals!

The recipe below is a cheat’s version of Hong Kong-style milk tea, as I definitely don’t have access to any closely guarded recipe blend of tea leaves. (I also don’t fancy wrangling with silk stockings over my stove top.) Taking that into account, this is as close as I can get to my beloved milk tea without actually going to Hong Kong and dining at a cha chaan teng.

Hong Kong-Style Milk Tea


  • Two tea bags of a strong, plain black tea (e.g. Lipton black tea, English Breakfast, etc)
  • Evaporated or condensed milk
  • Ice (optional)
  • Sugar (optional)


  1. Put the two tea bags in a mug. Add boiling water and let steep for two to three minutes.
  2. Remove tea bags. Add evaporated or condensed milk to taste. Stir and add sugar if needed.
  3. If serving iced milk tea, fill a glass with ice and pour the tea over the ice cubes.

Link Love, Vol. 70

link love

A quick scroll through my Instagram and Facebook feed tells me that fall is here, if the copious amounts of pumpkin picking photos have anything to do with it. I’m no exception; I went to a pumpkin patch and apple orchard with a group of girlfriends and had a blast. Not only did I pick a pumpkin, but I also came home with copious amounts of preserves and fresh produce from the farm. I may be a city girl at heart and break out in hives at the thought of living in suburbia, but sometimes, it’s good to go to the countryside for a great afternoon.

A photo posted by amanda (@musicalpoem) on

In addition to getting in touch with my inner fall farm girl, I got back into the kitchen to experiment with a few recipes for Global Eats. My feelings towards being in the kitchen are still complicated for reasons I can’t quite understand, but hey, baby steps.

So much love to my girl Sweeney for having the strength and courage to write this.

Nostalgia for the cheaper stuff, indeed. Two nights ago I made a Kraft dinner and I have no regrets.

I’ve drifted apart from my fair share of friend groups over the years, so Kristin’s take on friendship nailed it for me.

“The Names They Gave Me” is just about the best thing I’ve read online in a long, long time. Phenomenal writing and a story that left me choking back tears.

It takes two to tango but the tango won’t ever come together if you don’t first know how to choose you, as Carley reminds us.

ADORED Chelsea’s post on the neverending bullshit that is fashion blogging. ADORED IT.

As someone who also started out blogging before the world of monetization and social media, I loved Kerri’s post on why she still blogs.

Couldn’t agree more with Erika’s three simple ways to be happier at work, particularly #1.

Electronics I Want


I am notorious for using my electronics to the point of where they start failing before I upgrade to a newer model. Case in point: my iPod Classic was seven years old before it finally bit the dust and it took me three years to upgrade my old smartphone despite it not being able to do much else besides make calls in its last few months of life.

There’s something about electronics that make me wary of handing over my credit card immediately, even if I legitimately do *need* the gadget. It probably has something to do with the higher price tags; it’s harder to justify hundreds of dollars as an impulse buy! Still, I’ve got my eye on a mix of electronics. Some of them are wants, some of them will likely become needs soon as my current gadgets die out, but all of them have price tags that make me (and my wallet) weep.


I’m undecided if I want the Air or Pro, although I’m leaning Pro. Either way, the price tag on any MacBook model makes me, and my wallet, want to run for the hills. I’ll need to decide which one I want soon as my current laptop is approaching seven years old and sounds like an airplane readying for takeoff every time I use it. I briefly considered a Chromebook, but after weighing the pros and cons I think a MacBook is what I want/need so unfortunately I’m stuck with the high price tag.

Canon PowerShot SX60 HS

I have a nice point and shoot camera that doesn’t get nearly enough action since my smartphone has a camera with the same amount of megapixels. However, I have been considering upgrading my digital camera to a higher end model. My eye is on the Canon PowerShot SX60 HS. I don’t want to invest in a dSLR because my so-so interest and skills in photography don’t warrant that type of purchase, but a higher-end digital camera is a nice stepping stone into the world of photography. Maybe that will mean I’ll finally be able to share nicer photos on this blog and shoot higher quality videos for my YouTube channel!


The Asian Pear will have a conniption if I ever invest in a FitBit as she’s very astutely pointed out that I have other needs that warrant the $99 price tag each time I’ve talked to her about potentially getting one. But I can still daydream about getting one! She’s right though, I don’t NEED to splurge on what is essentially a fancy pedometer. However, I’d like to think that it would be motivation for me getting my butt off the couch and getting those steps in for the day.

Kindle Paperwhite

I have a trusty Kindle that I won in a giveaway Nicole hosted a little over a year ago that I love and use almost every day. But sometimes I fantasize about getting the Kindle Paperwhite. Usually, this happens when I want to keep reading yet am in a situation where all of the lights are off! I truthfully won’t ever be able to justify any new Kindle model while I have a perfectly reliable and functional Kindle in my possession, but a girl can dream.

iPod Classic

APPLE DOESN’T EVEN MAKE THESE ANYMORE! *sob, sob* My last iPod Classic lasted me seven years, a remarkable feat in iPod history. A quick glance on the Apple website shows that they only make iPod Touches now, which I have about zero interest in. My smartphone plays music, as does my old iPhone 3G that I’ve been using as a paperweight for the last couple of years. Those’ll do for now, although I would love a new iPod Classic…

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