2.28.2011

Weekly Spending and Fitness Recap 2/21-2/27/2011

I haven't been too in tune with tracking my every penny this week BUT I have been putting away in savings because the BF and I are looking to buy a condo extremely soon. I got both of my tax refunds this past week and I threw it all into savings before I could think to spend any of it. Maybe next year I'll do something more fun with it like go on a mini vacation but this year it needs to go towards a down payment on a condo.

This past week was super spendy in terms of eating out because I met up with a friend from college on Thursday night. We ate at Joe's Crab Shack and I spent approx $30 including tip. It's not bad but both my friend and I became sick the next day! I'm thinking of calling them up but I doubt that I would want to go there any time soon after that experience.


Monday
Bagel shop $6.63

Tuesday
USPS $9.13
Gas $32.94
Moccs $34.95
Henry's $6.28
Ran 2 miles outdoors

Wednesday
Rite Aid $3.99
Cardio Mix - 1 hour

Thursday
Joe's Crab Shack $30

Friday
Lunch $9.30

Saturday
Lunch for 2 $8.16
Wal-Mart $18.25
Girl scout cookies $12
24SET (Cardio w/ weights) - 1 hour

Sunday
Girl scout cookies $8

TOTAL SPENDING: $144.68

It looks like I've been averaging about $150ish a week but I would LIKE to get it down to $100. My monthly budget is also blown this month due to high spending in eating out :( All I can do is try better next month!

2.22.2011

When to Contact Customer Service?

I'm just gonna come right out and say it. I hate contacting customer service but it has to be done. You get charged for something you weren't supposed to, sometimes bills are hard to understand and you are charged a gazillion things, or sometimes you need to speak to someone about products or services that were purchased that didn't live up to your standards.

Do you want to save money, time and stress? That's what customer service is for!

This past week, there have been two instances when I needed to contact customer service.

Swedish Skin:
This is my absolute favorite skincare line. I LOVE all their products and I even got my mom to swear by them. They give your skin such radiance and I've noticed that my acne scars have faded and my skin is left feeling supple and soft (totally rare for me). I use their apple rejuvenation serum, apple rejuvenation cream, anti-wrinkle moisturizer, eye cream, and SPF moisturizer. I just reordered two apple rejuvenation serums because my mom and I ran out. They sent me a FREE one in addition to the two I ordered, BUT when I compared it to my old bottle, the serum was lighter in color with a different consistency than the old one (which I LOVED).

I could have just shrugged it off but I spent $23.99 on a bottle, I could at least try to figure out why it looked different. I emailed them asking about the difference between the old one and new one, and they responded IMMEDIATELY, to let me know that the shade of the serum can change depending on the season. They asked me if I wanted the old one and they said they would send me replacement serums right away - I don't even have to return the ones I received. How amazing is that? Great products and great customer service? I'm a customer for life.

Sprint:
I usually HATE hate hate dealing with customer service when it comes to my cell phone. There's too much negotiating, explaining and re-explaining involved with it. I called at around 9pm last Thursday to speak to them about being charged for services I never used - upgrade activation (I never upgraded anything), overnight shipping for a phone we exchanged (should not have been charged), and we were still waiting on a credit for the phone that we returned some time ago.

At first I was speaking with a rep with an accent, I'm pretty sure this person was in a different country since they were just reading scripts to me and it didn't seem as though they understood me. After explaining why I called, she put me on hold and transferred me to someone else. I'm not sure what happened but all of a sudden I was receiving attentive and perfect service from someone, probably in the US and at a supervisor level. We were talking for almost 45 minutes and she was able to waive all the fees for me. She even called me the next day to make sure everything was straightened out!

What I learned...
Dealing with customer service has always been a pain for me. I'm usually given the run around but it's ALWAYS worth it to try to save yourself money. I'm getting $45 worth of free products from Swedish Skin and I'm getting credited almost $400 back to my account for Sprint. Life is goooood :)


Any customer service horror stories or times when you've received awesome service?

2.21.2011

Weekly Spending and Fitness Recap 2/14-2/20/2011

fail....it's not even the end of February.


Monday
$6.44 Krispy Kreme
$34.22 Gas

Tuesday
NO SPEND DAY!
Ran 2 miles outdoors

Wednesday
$6 Lunch
$17.95 TaxAct

Thursday
NO SPEND DAY!

Friday
$19.01 Lunch for 2
$21.00 Birthday gift
$14.12 Dinner for 2

Saturday
$26.34 Lunch for 3
24SET (Cardio w/ weights) - 1 hour
Zumba - 1 hour

Sunday
$14.91 Wal-Mart (shampoo, conditioner, air fresheners)
$6.51 Desserts
$9.35 Lunch for 2
$34.95 Shoebuy (10% cash back through ebates)

TOTAL SPENDING: $210.80

Unproductive week in terms of working out and I went way over my $100 weekly targeted spending. I transferred only $700 to savings this past week which left me with a lot more spending money in my checking account. That's the last time I'm doing that. I can't seem to learn how to stop spending on random food and stuff when I have money in my checking account. It just sits there and waits for me to spend it. Exhibit A - see all the times I went out to eat this week. Exhibit B - I bought moccasins last night. They were originally $39 but I had a $5 off coupon and I will be getting 10% cash back through eBates.

The BF and I went out on Saturday night with our friends so BF paid for everyone including our alcohol. Since we knew he would pay for that, I spent a lot this week on eating out since I paid for the rest of our meals. Plus, BF's little cousin had a birthday party on Friday and we bought her a gift. In addition, we babysat that same little cousin on Saturday. I don't mind helping BF's family since he always buys my siblings gifts and takes my family out to dinner.

Anyway... long spiel for a holiday - btw, happy president's day! Is it me or does this country have way too many holidays? Either way I work for almost half of them.

2.18.2011

Stop Holding Me Back!

Just a quick update post for a lovely Friday morning! I skipped the gym on Valentine's day, but on Tuesday I went running outside around hills. I must have run too hard because the inner part of my ankle has been in pain since then. This forced me to skip the gym all week including today, and I've been feeling horrible, guilty and helpless. This feeling is all too familiar, does it ring a bell with you?

Often times there is something holding me back from what I want to do, something that I have no control over. This week, it was my ankle stopping me from going to the gym. During Christmas, I lost my voice and could not communicate with family members I haven't seen in awhile. While I would like to save for all my goals as quickly as possible, it takes time and a lot of discipline. It's frustrating. I'm sure you can all relate in on way or another whether it be in regard to finances or life in general. When I get in a rut like this I often have trouble staying motivated on track. 

I know these are such simple tasks but I am sure you all have similar activities that you do to stay on track even when you are taken off the track (make sense?).






On that note - HAPPY FRIDAY!

2.17.2011

Thursday Pick Me Up

workisnotajob
Happy Thursday!

2.16.2011

Net Worth

So I thought long and hard about posting my net worth, but it really inspires me so I thought I would share it with you all. It's not such a big deal since I'm not a millionaire or anything, but if I can do it, anyone can do it! As long as you throw all your money at your debt (as much as you can), you can make it into the positive.

I wish I had started using Mint.com earlier, I signed up for it back in 2008 but I wasn't into tracking my money back then. August and September were my lowest points with debt and that's when I finally realized I need to just get rid of that balance once and for all. The big jump from December to January is most likely from all the cash gifts and since I had 3 paychecks that month.

My net worth includes all of my cash accounts, 401k and roth IRA.

2.14.2011

Weekly Spending and Fitness Recap 2/2-2/13/2011

Monday
$6.18 Breakfast
$10.50 USPS
Cardio Mix - 1 hour
Weights - legs/abs

Tuesday
$13.03 Lunch (I found a new restaurant near my work)
$32.71 Gas
Ran 2 miles outdoors

Wednesday
NO SPEND DAY!
Cardio Mix - 1 hour
Weights - legs

Thursday
$57.43 Asics Cross Trainers

Friday
$2.50 Lunch
$65.95 FitCouture Pants
Turbo Kick - 1 hour

Saturday
$40 Tips for Massages
$7.88 Dinner
24SET (Cardio w/ weights) - 1 hour
Zumba - 1 hour

Sunday
$11.31 Lunch for 2

TOTAL SPENDING: $236.18

First off - Happy Valentine's Day! Hope you all spend it with loved ones, whether it's your significant other, family or friends, spread the love today! And how good does that french toast/strawberry/mascarpone/nutella treat look down there? I want to try the recipe some time.


This week was not a good spending week. My targeted weekly spending goal is around $100 so this surpasses that goal by a lot. The workout pants and cross training shoes did me in this week, basically accounting for more than $100 of my weekly spending. What helps me avoid spending during the week is to always be equipped with food and that failed this week. I bought food a lot during the week which is how little amounts usually add up for me.

On Saturday the BF and I finally decided to use our LivingSocial vouchers for our 1-hour Swedish massages. I brought $40 to tip our masseuses ($20 each). The massage felt amazing and I left feeling like butter so it was worth it. We originally bought the vouchers for $40 each and the massage sells for $80 so it was definitely a great deal. On Sunday, we went to check out a condo for sale, it's a short sale...anyone have advice or experience with that? We're still debating if we want it or not.

Each week that I post these spending recaps I feel more accountable for what I've spent. Looking at the numbers, it doesn't look like a lot of spending, but totaling up everything is always a shock to me. Maybe I should personally do a mid-week total so that I know how much I spent before going into the weekend, which is usually when I spend the most. Ideas?

2.12.2011

Shopping: An Addiction - My Story


So I realize I haven't mentioned my history... as a reader of blogs myself, I like to know the blogger on a more intimate, personal level. I was also inspired to write this post after reading a thread on The Purse Forum in the Money Talks subsection titled "In reply to the How Much Debt Do You Have Thread" where people shared their "shopping addiction" stories and how they overcame them.


About 1/8 of the shoes I had during that time. I sold a lot of them

So cliché, yet shopping overcame my life for the past 3 years. Growing up, my mom was a single mom and we were close, like BFFs (she remarried when I was 9). She had a huge closet filled with nice dresses, jewelry in different jewelry boxes, a sweeping amount of beauty products and make-up, and tons and tons of shoes. I feel like I did not have a choice but to embrace shopping. I grew up being my mom’s sidekick in the fitting rooms, helping her choose which outfits to get and which to put back. As I grew older, we would try on bags at Louis Vuitton and Gucci and I would help her choose which wallet to get with the bag she chose. Heck, we still do that til this day. My mom and I email pictures of LV and Chanel bags back and forth to get each other’s opinions (before I started this blog).  

I never had expensive things and I never wanted them. In middle school, my clothes were from the Macy’s sale section, Ross, Target, and the like. My shoes were from Payless and I didn’t care. In high school, the most I spent on clothes was at Abercrombie & Fitch, and even then, I was paying for myself since I was working at T-Mobile at age 15. My mom wanted me to work to learn how to be independent. Instead of an allowance, I used my paychecks to go out with friends – restaurants, movies, Starbucks, gas. I wish my parents interfered and put those paychecks into a savings account for me, or sometimes I wish I didn’t start working so young so I wouldn’t learn how to earn and spend money at an early age.

In college, again, my mom always wanted me to have a job. I was in a sorority and she wanted me to use my paychecks on that (it was so expensive)! I worked at a few call centers before finally working at a law firm the last 2 years of college. Around the same time I had the steady job at the firm, I opened up my first credit card. That first year with the card, I was terrified of debt, and did not use it at all. The 2nd year I had the card, I discovered online shopping. This is how it all snowballed into a slow addiction that would soon take over my life. 

Me wearing the CHLOE Shoes!
Don't worry those are shorts,
not underwear :P
I was making barely above minimum wage, but yet I always carried a credit card balance of at least $1,000. I started off with small ticket items but finally I was buying $100-$200 for a pair of shoes each week. I fondly remember my first big purchase - $300 Chloe shoes from a website all in Français, no English (maybe I shouldn't have taken French all throughout high school). I had this feeling of victory since it was the last pair in my size (37.5) and all the fashion bloggers wanted it. These shoes were SO hard to find and since that moment, every online purchase seemed like a game. The whole cycle of online shopping did me in - putting in my payment info, pressing checkout, waiting for the package, and finally receiving it gave me such an adrenaline rush. It was an intense cycle that I could not break out of.

What made me so oblivious to it all was that I was paying my credit card payments on time each month, and I would pay as much as I could, not just the minimum payment. It seemed as though I wasn’t spending a lot since my balance would decrease, so I would keep spending like it was no tomorrow. After I graduated college and I was unemployed for awhile, I kept shopping! I was in la la land and my motto was “You only live once”, when actually that phrase did a lot more damage than good.

Sometimes I try to think of how I became addicted to shopping. Was it because I didn’t know how to handle financial freedom? Maybe I learned the value of earning and spending money too early? Was it because I had a steady flow of income and I knew I would be able to pay it back “the next paycheck” (which of course didn’t happen since I would end up buying more stuff)? It could have been all the above in addition to being online a lot, reading fashion blogs, and being an active member of forums such as The Fashion Spot and The Purse Forum. I made lots of online friends through those forums that shared the same shopping interests so we were catalysts for each other.


There is a good ending though and I have paid off all my debt although I am ashamed to say that my debt was from shopping and not from school, food, rent or anything necessitating that it was sensible. The best part was that I learned my lesson (albeit an expensive one) and that I can finally prove to my family that I know how to save money.


If you would like to share your story, please leave me a comment or if you have posted your story leave me the link! I sincerely love getting comments, thank you for all of those that take the time to do so.

2.11.2011

Shopping Anxiety

I feel soooo guilty although I know I shouldn't! I've been planning these purchases for awhile now but when it finally came down to pressing that "Submit" button I felt a wave of stress take over me. Perhaps I feel like this will be opening the floodgates but I know I have it under control! I've been needing cross trainers since I have been wearing my running shoes to zumba, cardio mix, turbo kick, 24SET, etc. As a result my ankles and knees would start hurting during class and after working out from all the twisting, jumping, pivoting, and lunging.

So this is what I spent $57 on yesterday. The ASICS Gel Enthrall cross trainer. I bought it off Amazon but I used my $29 Amazon remaining balance from a few gift cards, so in reality it was about $86 retail. I have ASICS Kayanos as running shoes, and I have had the ASICS Nimbus and Cumulus running shoes in the past. They are my favorite brand for running so I figured I should try out their cross trainers.

As if that wasn't bad enough, I spent $65.95 on ONE pair of workout pants from FitCouture! I cringed when I bought it online but I have been looking for good quality workout pants for awhile. I am not willing to spent $98 on Lululemon pants and did not want to spend $20 on Forever 21 workout pants. I went to GAP on Wednesday with a 40% off coupon to try on the gFast pants since I have the gFast leggings but the flare was way too wide. Anyway you are all probably sick of hearing me talk about fitness clothes, I can't believe I have spent so much time thinking about them!

What's even crazier for me is the anxiety I felt when buying these items. I have never had that happen before but ever since I have been tracking every penny and saving as much as I could, spending does not give me that little "high" anymore like it used to. Instead I was going back and forth and ultimately came to a conclusion that I needed these items and even calculated the costs in terms of hours I have spent at work (which wasn't so bad - I'm exaggerating like I'm buying a car here!). I can afford them and I planned/budgeted for these items, but now I have realized that...

Shopping is no longer a hobby for me.

Coming to this realization is a bit sad because I have fond memories of shopping to bring me a short burst of happiness when I needed it, but it also makes me feel like a winner (a winner of what, I don't know haha, isn't a winner always a good thing?). It's like ending a friendship with a really good friend who has been there for me. I no longer purchase items out of impulse or because I want more "stuff". Doing a back to back purchase like this online really reminds me of how out of control I was and that's probably what the anxiety was all about.

So goodbye shopping, my old hobby and good friend... we had great times but now it's time to move on!

I wanna know.. any other recovering shopaholics out there?

2.09.2011

Irony: Being an Adult and Lashing Out as a Baby


This is the first year that I am filing taxes on my own.


I don’t know why but filing your own taxes seems daunting.
I have a business degree, took accounting and finance, and I am still intimidated (maybe cause I SUCK at accounting?)

Maybe taxes just sound like a bad word.
“TAX YOU!”
“No, TAX YOU dude!” 

Or maybe everyone just royally complains about filing taxes which in turn, makes everyone else want to royally complain about it. I don’t know what caused that epidemic but this year I wanted to partake in all the fun and be an “adult” by filing my own taxes.

My taxes are not difficult to file. I have one job, one income, one 401k, one roth IRA and one high yield savings account. I don’t have an energy saving car, solar panels, my own house, or anything else of that nature that would count on my taxes so it’s relatively easy. 

For anyone else who’s an amateur at filing their own taxes, I highly recommend TaxAct. For one federal filing and one state filing, the total comes out to $17.95. Compared to Turbo Tax at $29.95, it’s quite a steal and their interface is very user-friendly. I haven’t tried Turbo Tax so I can’t compare the two, but for people who like nice clean interfaces and instructions, try TaxAct!

After plugging in the numbers last night, my federal refund came out to about $1,300 and my state refund came out to about $400. So that’s where all my money went from my paychecks! The money that was withheld is technically MINE so I should be entitled to it right? I was already jumping around thinking that I would be putting my refund entirely towards the condo down payment fund.

All good right? Enter my mom. She wants to claim me as a dependent. I moved out in May 2010. Technically she CAN’T since I am 23, and I was not a full-time student for 50%+ of 2010. Right? She also did not support me for 50%+ of the year and I did not live at home for 50%+ of the year so I don’t think she can claim me as a dependent. I started whining like a baby saying that my refund would be way lower if she did that, though on the other hand it would really help my parents since it would lower their income bracket and they would save a bunch on paying taxes. But this is my first time I am entitled to a refund, and I worked for it! It’s still my money. Or is it?
 
Am I being selfish here?

Before anyone suggests that my mom claim me as a dependent and then give me the money I would have been entitled to since she would be saving a lot more, she won’t do it. I just know she won’t. What makes me feel worse is that they make well over $200k a year and they seriously don’t NEED the tax break…but I could really use a bigger refund.

Note: I am 23. I moved out and lived alone when I was 17 for college. I’ve had a job since I was 13 and I started driving as soon as I legally could (15 ½ with a permit, 16 with a license). I basically raised my little bro and sis since I am 9 years older than my bro and 13 years older than my sis. I have always taken care of myself and I was independent at a young age. I am definitely not a brat or a baby :)

2.07.2011

Weekly Spending and Fitness Recap 1/31-2/6/2011

Monday
NO SPEND DAY!
Ran 2 miles outdoors

Tuesday
$0.65 Starbucks (used rest of a gift card)
Ran 2 miles outdoors

Wednesday
NO SPEND DAY!
Cardio Mix - 1 hour
Weights - legs, abs

Thursday
NO SPEND DAY!
Ran 2 miles

Friday
Dinner for 2 $13.66
Turbo Kick - 1 hour

Saturday
Lunch for 2 $17.93
Wetzel's Pretzels $8.56

Sunday
Souplantation for 4 $39.31
Vons $6.00
Ran 2.5 miles

TOTAL SPENDING: $86.11

Omg! I can't believe I spent so little this week, if only I could do that EVERY week! What's even crazier is that I thought I spent so much this weekend. If we didn't eat out SO much this weekend I would have spent less. On Saturday I wanted to go to the outlets so the BF drove me and I bought him lunch at a Mexican joint (his favorite food) so he could take me (it's 30 minutes away). Ever since starting this blog I have really held myself back from impulse shopping, and it showed when we went to the outlets. I went into a TON of stores - Polo Ralph Lauren, GAP, Puma, Adidas, and so many more I can't remember. I even tried on some clothes but I never wanted to buy anything. In the past I wouldn't have thought twice! I didn't need anything besides some workout clothes but I couldn't find anything I LOVED so I didn't buy anything. BF was extremely impressed and kept saying "Wow we are making good time, in and out!" If you knew me before, this is definitely not how I used to shop. I would try on tons of clothes and then end up buying a couple. On Sunday, I took out the BF and his parents to lunch at Souplantation. $40 for 4 people is a really good deal and for a buffet, yummy!

I didn't work out as much as I wanted to this week because I was lazy on Saturday and Sunday. I wanted to go to 24SET class on Saturday and Zumba on Sunday but the BF claimed that he never sees me anymore so I decided to spend time with him and skip the classes (BF started the new job so he needs to figure out his schedule before starting to go to the gym again). Also I needed a rest day on Saturday. When I go running, I go with the BF so he likes it when I run with him instead of going to the gym....but you all know I love taking classes at the gym!

Backtracking to Friday, BF and I had our first monthly financial meeting. So far we have about 12% of our down payment for our condo but we are aiming for 20%, and it will probably take about 6 months. It's nice to talk about money together and to see where we both are at.

2.04.2011

Lululemon or Hair?

Dilemma time

Wow this post makes me sound kind of shallow. I promise I'm not! I just like to post personal little spending dilemmas on here to hear everyone's thoughts.

Option 1 

I mentioned that I wanted new workout clothes, it's not an absolute must but I would like some cute tops to wear to the gym instead of old tank tops. I've scoured ebay and found a bunch of Lululemon tops that I would love to add to my workout clothes collection. I would be willing to pay about $75 for 3 tops or so.

EDIT: I've looked around and found some more cute tops from Nike and Puma. I may go this direction and get a pair of Lululemon pants off ebay! Yay!

Option 2
ACTUAL SALON!
I have been wanting a fresh new haircut and dye job. My hair grows quickly and I want more layers and shorten it a little (it's pretty long). I also may want to go darker or lighter with highlights...right now it's just a plain light brown. There's a LivingSocial deal for $65 worth of services for $25 at a salon I want to try (pictured above).

EDIT: I used to highlight my hair (all throughout high school and college) and now I am back to a normal light brown. I may just leave the color as is and go for the new haircut.

Decisions, decisions... btw I haven't purchased any new workout clothes (even after my long Forever 21 post about it). I may check out the outlets but I'm pretty lazy when it comes to scoping out racks of stuff.

Obviously I don’t NEED both of these options because frankly, I don’t feel like spending a lot. Heck I don’t even want to spend anything but my hair is a dull light brown and the layers are grown out it’s insane. Point two, can you blame me for wanting to look and feel a little sexy at the gym? Okay maybe not sexy per se but a little cute? When I feel good in the clothes I wear at the gym, my confidence soars and I workout harder. Maybe that’s my sales pitch to myself. See…this is how my spending kick happens; I start talking to myself and convincing myself that I need these things. In all honesty I don’t need anything and I am surviving without them..but they would be nice and the budget does allow for it.

Opinions anyone?

2.03.2011

January 2011 recap

January spending in a nice little pie chart.

January 2011 budget

1 Blown budget :(



Contributions for January:
Gift Fund: +$150
E-Fund: +$1,900
401k: +$255
Travel Fund: +$300
Roth IRA: +$300

I'm in the clear for the most part! It was a great month!

2.02.2011

Citibank Driver's Edge Credit Card is Changing!

I received a notice in the mail from Citibank that they will be changing my Driver's Edge Credit Card to The Citi ThankYou Card! I am ecstatic since I have been wanting to open up a new credit card with a better rewards system.
The light blue one is the ThankYou card

With the new card I will earn rewards for every $1 spent on purchases AND more...



Not to mention the new card looks a lot prettier...always a plus in my book! What I am most satisfied with is that there will be no annual fee.


And because I travel so much I am especially grateful for these new services:

Lost Luggage Coverage: Up to $3,000
Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption: Up to $1,500
Automatic Travel Accident Insurance
Auto Rental Insurance: Up to $50,000
Travel Assistance Services

I just have to remember to put all these purchases on the card. Luckily I have no debt and it’s forever ingrained in me that I MUST pay it off in full each month to avoid interest fees. I think I'll start treating it as a debit card, but I will have to keep better track of my transactions since they don't post as quickly as my Chase debit card.

Question to all my readers: Do you think I should change my Chase rewards debit card into a normal debit card now? I do have to pay a $25 annual fee on it but the rewards are basically the same as Citi's, no extra perks. If I start using the Citi CC to gain all the points, then my Chase debit card won't be used as often, so I don't know if paying the $25 fee will be worth it each year.
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