What Living in the Caribbean Taught Me About Finance and Wealth

You’ve probably seen the Cosmopolitan story about the Yale graduate who left her nearly six-figure job and moved to St. John to scoop ice cream.

Or if not, maybe you’ve seen the Huffington Post article from one of my favorite bloggers, Budget Blonde, on how she paid off her debt by moving to a Caribbean island (the same one where I am, to be exact).

Something about living in this part of the world grants you revelations on how you should spend your time and money. When my husband got accepted to medical school in Grenada and I made the decision to enter grad school, we tried to ignore the fact that we would be drowning in debt while living in the Caribbean. We got our loan disbursements on time, and didn’t pay much attention to our budget even though many of our perceived necessities, like imported food from America or really cold air conditioning, cost so much more than they do at home. We were used to a certain standard of living that just wasn’t sustainable here.

As months progressed and we realized that we would run out of money if we kept shopping online or buying frozen pizzas, we were forced to reconsider the concepts of value and necessity. We joke about “when we’re rich” with multiple graduate degrees under our belts, but the reality is that we perceive wealth so much differently than we used to. Here are a few lessons we’ve learned in a year and a half of living here:

Living in the Caribbean taught me some valuable financial lessons. Read about 'em here. [Read more…]

What’s 13 Inches and Keeping You Up at Night?

The following is a post by my husband (aka Mr. Grad Girl). He’ll pop up on the blog once in a while to discuss health research and tips that you can use every day!

I’d always joke with my friends about passing out during the school breaks—but when the time came to sleep, you could find me wide awake and derping around the internet. A few med school classes and health blogs later, I found the source of my problem: my 13-inch Macbook screen.

It's not what you think! Too much screen time before bed can suppress your melatonin and keep you awake. With these 3 tips, you can prep for sleep without completely shutting down. [Read more…]

Nostalgia Trip: Lisa Frank Then and Now

The 90s brought us a lot of bizarre school supplies—Koosh ball pencil toppers, scented erasers, smudgy erasable pens, and Dr. Pepper Lip Smackers, off the top of my head—but none resonate as strongly as Lisa Frank school supplies.

In memories of elementary school, the neon-clad WTF factor of Lisa Frank appealed to literally every girl I knew. Not only did owning these products make you normal (which is, at minimum, all any girl wants to be), they made you cool. Our parents must have thought we were insane to want folders plastered with ballerina rabbits, rainbow-striped unicorns, or bears dressed as cheerleaders… and I still can’t tell you if peer pressure or genuine enjoyment of Lisa Frank made her school supplies so popular. We simply accepted and revered every item that hit store shelves when the school year began.

Nostalgia Trip: Lisa Frank Then and Now | GradGirl

But I can’t obsess over puppy-printed binders the way I did as a schoolgirl. Although anyone can appreciate the painstaking labor that went into designing their signature trippy artwork (taking three months at minimum to design a single sticker—before computers, of course), the company’s candy-coated image suffers from a rotted core of legal troubles, affairs, and cocaine addiction.

Lisa Frank’s Tucson headquarters, according to current and former employees, looks like a ghost town now. And although there is certainly still a market for the merchandise, revenues have reached an all-time low and only a few handfuls of staff still work there. Why does the Technicolor façade reveal such an abysmal underbelly?

It starts with Frank and her former husband James Green, sole owners of the business whose tattered relationship rendered them incapable of managing it. Green started working at the company as an illustrator and designer, but quickly advanced to CEO once he began romancing with Frank. She gave him 49% of the company, and let him run it while she stayed home to raise their two children. Meanwhile, many former workers suggest that Green was having an affair with the company’s vice president Rhonda Rowlette.

Green’s cocaine addiction probably didn’t help matters, either—employees reveal that random outbursts, thrown objects, and on-the-spot firings made up his horrendous management style. And it gets worse: the man wouldn’t let female employees wear heels, gave people deplorable nicknames, and most likely forced the unluckiest of them to facilitate drug deals for him.

Frank eventually retook the company after a bitter divorce with Green, and has been caught in legal battles with him ever since. I like to picture a comeback for her—and I know that other 90s kids would support one too—but her personal problems have likely destroyed such a possibility.

Would anyone have wanted Lisa Frank goods if they knew them as the spawn of scare tactics and abusive behavior? The seven-year-old me probably wouldn’t have cared—then again, kids have an unyielding sense of fairness. While those glittering pencils and backpacks encapsulated everything happy and free from my childhood, I can let go of its falsified appeal without regrets.

Did you use Lisa Frank goodies as a kid (or did you buy different school supplies altogether)? Tell me about it in the comments!

Image: inhisgrace / CC BY-ND 2.0