November 2010 Budget Recap

Woohoo it's the last day of November! This month has been eventful to say the least - I celebrated my birthday and took a trip home for Thanksgiving. Financially, I've completed some important milestones for myself, specifically opening up an IRA account.

Instead of posting my weekly spending recap, I've decided to post my November budget to show you all how I did this month. I've been waiting all month to post my budget but towards the end, I wasn't feeling too happy about it due to all the end-of-the-month spending.

What really did me in was the GIFT budget. I obviously didn't save up the entire year like most PF bloggers, but I did manage to spread it across a couple paychecks. I still have 2 more gifts to buy but the heavy lifting has already been done (or should I say spending?). SO obviously that gift budget is skewing my spending for the month. I don't usually spend $887 monthly as I wish (though that would be nice right now). I also exceeded the gas budget because of the long 8 hour drive to and from my hometown.

Ta-da, the whole shabang. Like I said in my last blog post, I splurged on skincare products this month and the uncategorized $140 was an ATM withdrawal, which I used at home. The fees were from my CC and that will be nonexistent since I'm CC-fee-free! The $63 for business services is from shipping items that I've sold online... also hoping to minimize this category.

I know you're hoping I didn't just spend all month right? Seriously, who does that? Every other Friday, I contribute 5% of my paycheck to my 401K, and I receive 3% employer contributions. $300 went to my Roth IRA this month and $100 went to my savings (I'll be transferring $600 later this week, but that doesn't count right...that would make it part of December). I still have about $90 in my checking account and $80 in my paypal account just as padding... maybe I will buy lunch some time this week! :)

How did you do this month? How do you reward yourself for sticking to your budget?


The Damage

Short vacations are difficult... especially around the holidays and when visiting family. I was kinda bad this past weekend. My mom is a bad influence...she dragged me to the mall on Saturday before the wedding. I spent $117.88 at Express but I used 2 coupons for $40 off and $10 off. On the drive up, I bought a pair of comfy flats at Target for $14.99. For gas, I spent about $65 for the entire weekend, but luckily my mom paid for a tank of gas when I got home. Also I spent $123.39 on a few skincare products from a line called Swedish Skin. Considering that each product was about $20, I don't think that was too bad. I've been needing new skin care products and I have never splurged on anything like this before. I feel a bit guilty for spending so much but I know I will be able to pay off that $117.88 on my credit card this next week. For everything else, I used cash and it feels nice to be able to just pay for things and not worry about them later (a la credit card). Plus I will be sending money to my savings account right away. Considering that I just spent $241.27 on myself this past weekend, I need to remember that number and not let it get out of hand again. That's what happened last time - I would never calculate the actual damage done and would think I could spend because I had the money.

Well I hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving! Mine went by SO quickly.. my BFF's wedding was amazing and so much fun.. great food, people and dancing! I loved seeing my family this weekend but I am glad the long drive is over. I got back super late last night and got to work bright and early today. Happy Monday!


Goal Achieved!

This past weekend I made the final payment on my credit card! It feels great and I can't believe I did it this quickly. I am officially debt-free. I wasn't aware of how much I was throwing down the drain on useless crap. The ticker says I only paid off $3292 of debt but that's because I didn't create that goal on Mint.com until about 4 months ago. Seeing that ticker and that goal glare at me in my face, taunting me with its evil ways, I wanted to complete the goal as quickly as possible. All in all I actually paid off about $12,000 on this same credit card since this past May 2010. Every time the balance went down, I kept spending more so I always carried a balance of $2-3k. Something clicked on my 23rd birthday and I just didn't want to do this anymore. If I can do it, anyone can! Just keep throwing your money at your debt. I don't have any car or school loans so I was able to do this quickly, but the 21% interest rate is horrible and I paid SO much on interest it's embarrassing.

My next goal is to pad up the emergency savings. What motivates me the most is the Jul 05 2012 estimated completion date. It sounds SO far away but I know that it can and will be completed before then!


Weekly Spending Recap 11/15-11/21

This past week was rather spend-y but most of it went towards gifts. It's funny, when I spend loads of money on myself and my shameless vanity (clothes, shoes, bags) I feel horribly guilty and selfish. I really love finding gifts for people (hardcore gift giver) and so I ended up spending a lot this past weekend. I know I said I would stick to a $100 budget for my best friend's wedding gift, but I got such a great deal on a 14-piece bedsheet set ($79, originally $300) and just in case she totally hates it, a cute hamper from her wedding registry ($30). I had to pay for express shipping to get it in time for the weekend, but it was worth it - originally $37, I had a coupon code for free standard shipping, which took off $16.50. Without further ado... recap below:

$10.50 Post office
+$140 Sold a bag
$11.96 Lunch
$27.19 AE (mom's gift)

No spend day!

$45.81 BF's mom's gift
$6.65 Post office
$140 Sold a bag

$10.49 Post office

$2.18 Lunch (McD's)
+$200 Sprint rebate
$100 Living expenses

$13 Lunch for BF & me
$143.42 Wedding gift

$20 Petsmart
$27.34 Ulta (make-up)
$6.63 Bruno Mars CD on iTunes

= -$54.80

Haha I ended up with more money than I had in the bank after all that spending. I was trying to be really frugal. I didn't exceed my Christmas gift budget yet, but I still have a handful more to get.


Absolute Minimum Challenge!

In an effort to live below my means and to really buckle up on saving, I'm creating an absolute minimum challenge for myself these next two weeks. I'm only doing it for the next two weeks because I get paid every other Friday and the system starts all over again.

Total Income for 2 weeks:
  • $1871.12
Expenses for 2 weeks:
  • $72 cell phone bill
  • $650 credit card payment
  • $100 BFF's wedding gift
  • $100 BF's mom (living expenses)
  • $60 food/entertainment
  • $100 trip/fun expenses
  • $60 gas
  • 5% pre-tax 401k
  • $600 to savings

= $99.12 until December 3rd, 2010

This wouldn't be too bad normally, but the BF and I are going on a trip to visit my family 8 hours away for Thanksgiving weekend, not to mention my BFF's wedding next Saturday. My parents usually fill up a gas tank for me and pay for our food expenses while we're there so I'm not worried about that. I just hope I don't go all out and try to get my hair, nails and make-up done. Planning to do it all myself or have my BFF's sister in law do it for me. The catch is that I won't be transferring the $600 to savings until I get back, but as long as I know my savings goal for these 2 weeks, I won't be spending money. I'm also trying to avoid Black Friday!


Controlling the Urge

I'm not gonna lie. I'm having serious withdrawals right now. I used to shop freely every week, packages were coming in every other day or so. It was that bad and I knew it had to stop but just like a smoker craves cigarettes, I miss shopping. Online shopping was (is) my weakness. Everything looks so shiny, new, perfect and meant for me. You know what I mean... you click on it, zoom in and out, picture yourself wearing those new shoes or sweater, etc and promise yourself you will wear it with everything in your closet to maximize the cost per wear. But that's when it goes downhill and $20 turns into $50, $50 into $100 and before you know it you've spent thousands. Don't even get me started on bags. I was addicted to Balenciaga, Chanel and Louis Vuitton. Those cravings and urges are not easy to satiate until you get it in your hand. Yet, it doesn't end there, you keep wanting more.

How many bags do we really need? How many pairs of shoes, lipglosses/lipsticks, blushes, blazers, jeans, rings, and tops will we actually use in our life? Just last night I was wanting to buy all these tops and pants for work but within 15 minutes I closed out of everything and felt really good that I didn't cave. I would much rather save than spend on things I don't need. This is my blog and I created it for these moments when I forget what I'm saving for. I want to have savings, buy a house, and be financially secure. That credit card debt is almost gone and I don't
want to see it skyrocket again.

How do you control those shopping urges?!



I've been good at not spending this week (though it's only Wednesday). I have been too lazy to bring lunch to work so on Monday I spent $1.40 on a coke and snickers. I know, I'm so healthy. On the plus side, I've been eating at home for dinner and trying to eat breakfast. Waffles and nutella are really good!

I'd love to hear your easy breakfast ideas! Cheap and time-saving is a plus!


Weekly Spending Recap 11/8 - 11/14

$4.56 McDonald's
$7.60 Panera Bread 
$27.29 Gas
$9.01 Henry's
+57.96 Sold a bag
$23.90 Gift
$95 Gift
$13.95 Shipping
$14.01 Dinner
$27.19 Gift
$8.88 Lunch
$3.49 Frozen waffles
+$33.68 Sold shoes

= $143.24 Total

This doesn't include paying for credit card and transferring money to savings. That will be a separate blog post! This past week was great in terms of spending, especially on the weekend. I bought a lot of Christmas gifts but that's better for me since I'm spreading it all out and getting it out of the way. Last night I had a dream that I wasn't contributing enough into my 401k to receive my employer's contributions... talk about a nightmare, haha! I have the weirdest dreams. Anyway I love that it's the 15th and my budget is looking great (will post that at the end of the month).

I wanted to show my progress ever since starting this blog. I didn't want to show anyone my spending habits but compared to last month, I am doing very well and I WILL keep it up! Look my shopping category is negative this month! :)

Yesterday, I opened up my Roth IRA with T. Rowe Price. I like their website functionality (on android too) as well as the simplicity of signing up. I chose the retirement fund 2050 and a health sciences fund for starters. I'm in the biotech industry so I've been watching it. My contributions will start in December. This month is too hectic, I need to get my x-mas shopping finished and my BFF is getting married at the end of this month (wedding present + all that jazz).


Gift Budgets

I love the holidays and I absolutely LOVE gift giving. The downside? I have a HUGE family!! AND I'm a hardcore gift giver, in the sense that I put in a lot of effort thinking about the giftee and what would give them the most awesome reaction once they open their gift. It's priceless. Or is it? Actually it's not! I'm stressing out about keeping everything within my budget but trying to find the perfect gifts. I have about 20 people to give gifts to in my family (mom and stepdad's side), plus BF's family so add about 7 more people. There's also my dad, stepmom and stepsister. Lastly, there's my secret santa from TheFashionSpot.

So last night I started budgeting and gift shopping. In total I'm hoping not to spend more then $250 for gifts for the gigantic aforementioned list of people. I bought all the gifts for the girls and it came out to $95! I knocked out 13 people. Awesome. Then I ordered my secret santa's gift, a fashion illustration sketchbook for $23.90. Not bad at all. The BF is putting in some money as well but not as much because its not his fault my family is so big.

The secret to keeping my budget small for so many people is that we're buying big Christmas stockings and filling them up, with personalized items. For the gals - trendy jewelry, tees, tops, nail polish. For the guys - little bottles of alcohol, car detailing items, golf balls. Of course fill em all up with candy. In addition I'm baking little toffee shortbread balls and wrapping them up for everyone, possibly chocolate chip cookies too. There are lots of cute packaging items at Michael's to wrap baked goodies in. For my parents and BF's parents I'll be shelling out a little more for more thoughtful gifts.

I'll keep updating you guys on my Christmas shopping but I'm hoping to do most of it online this year. I like to get it out of the way early, that way I'll be stress free to just enjoy the holidays! :)

So how much do you budget for Christmas gifts? Any cheap or creative gift ideas for kids or adults you would like to share?


Extra Income Ideas & Freebies

I'm always thinking about saving and making extra income. Life is distracting but if you look hard, you will find what you're looking for. Everyday I keep my eyes peeled for new opportunities, ways to freelance, things to sell or trade, and just general ways to get more bang for my buck (cheesy I know).

This week alone I sold a pair of shoes on ebay and sold 2 designer bags. Each week I sell at least 1 item from my closet because I have way too much for my own good. I can't wait to stop selling because postage takes a good chunk of my budget these days!

Moving on, yesterday I showed you one of my favorite sites, WeSeed. I wanted to share more sites that I visit often, that actually reward you with points that you can redeem for actual items. If you haven't already heard of Swagbucks, go right now (click banner below)! Use it in place of google when you have to look something up and you can earn "swagbucks". Most people redeem their swagbucks by getting $5.00 Amazon gift cards for just 450 swagbucks. I haven't used it too much the past week and I already have 110 swagbucks. If you are going to sign up, might as well click on the banner below and send a couple of buckaroos my way! Once you do, you can refer anyone and earn some for yourself with referrals :)

Search & Win

Another site that I just joined is LUUUX. Basically it's a social networking site where you can post "blog" entries relating to fashion, beauty, health, food, entertainment, etc and earn "luuux" points for sharing, posting, etc. The prizes are phenomenal but they do take a lot of work to earn the expensive ones. Best prizes include Louis Vuitton purses, new iPhone 4's and iPod touches and designer clothes! I don't get points for anything, just wanted to share this cool site!

Besides these sites, I've been into collecting coupons. Just yesterday I found this awesome coupon in the mail from Albertson's to buy 10 Kellogg's products at one time, receive 2 free movie tickets PLUS $10 in concession cash. They're giving me $30 for free! We usually buy cereal, granola bars and other snacks like Cheez-It's so it will be easy to stock up and just save them for a couple months since they are all non-perishable. On top of that, when you spend over $25 at Albertson's there's another coupon for a FREE jug of apple juice!

Also check out RECEIPTS. BF and I enjoy going to Smashburger for burgers and fries quite often. On the bottom of every receipt there is a survey you can take online to get a free serving of french fries. Just enter the validation code. Ta-da... you save $2.00 on your next meal there. I've done this each time and their fries are soo good!

In other awesome news, my credit score is 755! Just found out yesterday! Woohoooo...


Risky vs. Conservative Investing

The BF and I were discussing this last night. He's definitely the risky investor type while I'm ultra conservative. I'm all about the long-term savings, compounding interest after years of saving. I am loving regular high yield savings accounts, mutual & index funds, CDs, and retirement funds (401k, Roth IRA). BF on the other hand, is the risky type. He's starting a business, and he puts money in stock. Together I would definitely say we are diversifying as much as we can. His motto is "the greater the risk the greater the reward"... which is also something I'll never forget from corporate finance class back in college.

I've been playing with watching and "investing" in the stock market a little bit... by that I mean with fake money! How do I do that you ask? Check out this site WeSeed. The money is fake but the stock prices and symbols/companies are real, and so is the education and experience of trading stocks! It's fun to manage your portfolio without feeling emotionally connected because it's not real money. This would be ideal for someone watching the market and looking to invest in some stocks later, or for someone just learning about it. They have other educational tools if you are interested.

Here's my portfolio after 2 days...

I spread mine out a bit and didn't buy too many of some stocks just to play around with it. Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think! :)

In other news, I ordered a new book from Amazon yesterday by the recommendation of my blog friend elleandish. I'll post a review once I read it, I already read the first 19 pages through the Amazon preview feature and enjoyed it so much. It's a personal finance book of course!

Today at work, I'll be looking into opening up a Roth IRA. Btw, is it I.R.A. or Ira (e-ruh)?


Stopping the Endless Cycle

Ah.. don't you just love email? It's great for people who like instant gratification - you can send people messages, track conversations, see if someone read and opened your email, see if someone is online/busy, etc. I guess I was talking more about Outlook. Anyway, I digress... I have 4 email addresses, and for some odd reason (my fault obvs) I get loads and loads of junk email (coupons, promos, ad campaigns) from every single store out there everyday. You name it, I am/was subscribed to their daily (bi-daily!?) email newsletter. Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, GAP, Asos, AE, Old Navy, Endless, Piperlime, Nine West and the list is neverending. Well I succumbed into their traps and was buying clothes, shoes, bags I didn't need. Yeah, they got me GOOD. They knew that I wanted instant gratification so all I had to do was click here and there, and I would be waiting for a new present in the mail.

Stop that cycle now! I kept telling myself it was just this top and just these shoes. It's okay. Well it's not okay. To avoid the temptation, just unsubscribe or delete each of these emails right as you get them! That way you don't need to see that tempting 50% coupon or the secret savings event that only their exclusive secret email subscribers receive.

Off to delete some more spam in my inboxes............

Hungry Bank

Okay seriously. How could someone NOT want this cute little piggy bank? It has a motion sensor that activates it to "chew" on your money. Cumbersome but still cute.

So this weekend was great, I did an awesome job at saving money. I got paid on Friday, paid "rent" to my BF's mom, and only spent $30 on eating out the entire weekend! Saturday my dad took me out to eat at a Brazilian steakhouse so I saved $41 :) Don't we all love parents? They are so good to me! 

I took the BF out to eat on Friday night for $20 total and on Sunday he bought us dinner. I'm trying to figure out my "eating out" budget each month but it's so difficult. Obviously I would hope I spend less than $200/mo on eating out but right now I think we eat out more than we cook at home because we live with his parents. Our only groceries are usually chicken, lettuce, fruit, veggies and some snacks. We make salad everyday for lunch which saves a TON of money, not to mention helps us stay fit. It consists of red leaf & green leaf lettuce, broiled chicken, cucumbers, carrots, and sometimes corn. I make the ranch dressing homemade because BF loves ranch, and I tend to stick to a ginger vinaigrette. If we don't spend too much on groceries, I think we'll be okay with the eating out budget.

Anyway, I shouldn't have spent $6 getting shaved ice with all those toppings last Sunday but I didn't have cash and the minimum for using a credit card was $5.00. That was a lesson to always carry at least $20 with you because you might have to spend more without cash. Also I had Panera Bread for lunch yesterday and it came out to $7.60. I now feel guilty about it but I know I shouldn't. Budgeting and saving is a real eye-opener and I'm glad it's helping me out. I haven't shopped in over 3 weeks! This is totally weird for me but my wallet is thanking me (and my credit card).

I wanted to also thank Janelle from elleandish for inspiring me and for giving me some great advice. Check out her blog if you have time! I think everyone should have someone they can get inspired by to help motivate them!


Weekly Money Check Up!

My first weekly money check up! Courtesy of My Pretty Pennies

photo courtesy of uk2.net
1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on $24 for gas! I love my Corolla. It saves SO much gas. Darn my 15-min commute to work twice a day though. My tank was only 3/4 full but I wasn't feeling lazy on Tuesday so filled up. This is a good week.. I've managed not to buy anything online or spend it on eating out on the weekdays. My birthday was on Wednesday so BF took me out to dinner.

2. Today I feel scared towards money. I'm doing really well on paying off my CC debt and I really hope I don't use it for some shameless spending. I tend to do that when I see a low balance. Must. Not. STOP!

3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was borrow a book from my coworker. I love reading and we have a lil book club going on. I sometimes succumb to buying books brand new or on Amazon so this is always a little treat.

4. I will consider this week a success if I pay that $2,000 towards my CC debt this week. I can't wait to see the balance on that thing under $600!

5. If I could grow one thing, it would be an avocado tree. Avocados are so expensive and usually not as ripe/large as I would like. BF's cousins have an avocado tree and they come out perfect every time. Guacamole is my favorite or using avocados in my sandwiches. Mmmmmmm.



The internet always has a strong influence on me and it has definitely hit me hard through the numerous fashion forums and shopping sites. One would be able to tell from my financial standing that I have not been financially responsible these past few months.

I'd rather not waste anymore time so this is my effort to document that. I'm also looking into getting a 2nd job since I get off so early - 3:30pm. I'm also going to return some things that I bought before this savings kick happened. That should give me $100 back on my CC so that will bring it down to $500. I am tired of paying interest fees and my 13.99% interest rate will go back to the horrible 21% interest rate in February 2011. What in the world was I thinking by keeping so much debt in there?!

 Budgeting has proven to be really difficult as this is truly my first time taking a stab at it. I can't believe the absurd amounts I was shelling out so easily for eating out, groceries, drugstore runs, bags, shoes and clothes! I need to focus on buying necessities and eating out less on the weekends.
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