10.30.2011

Secret Santa! + Weekend

Gosh this year is just flying by so quickly! Time flies when you are extremely busy but I always take time to appreciate the fall and the holiday season. It is my favorite time of year and it always feels like a new beginning as well as a time to reflect upon the year.

I just found out about Serendipity's Secret Santa. The great part about joining this one is that there is only a limit of $15! What a great way to spread some cheer and also get to know some bloggers! Join here - deadline to join is November 5th. I already joined and I am so excited! As you all know I love giving gifts.

Last year I participated in The Purse Forum's secret santa since I love everyone on that forum, however this year I think I will stick to just one secret santa since I am extremely busy with studying and law school applications and I know I won't have enough time to do research on 2 secret santas as well as gift shopping for family, friends and coworkers. I like to put my full effort into anything I do!

I hope everyone is having a fantastic Halloween weekend. BF and I went on a ghost tour around San Diego in a hummer limo on Friday night. It was fantastic learning about the history as well as being a bit spooked with others (not to mention free alcohol and the limo ride for 4 hours!). It was $45 per ticket and it was well worth it - we went to Hotel del Coronado, Horton Hotel, Waley House, Star of India and the graveyard in Old Town. Creepy but so fun! I didn't catch any orbs in my pictures though.

Other than that, I took a practice test yesterday and we have been eating pizza and watching scary movies - here are some pics of the Horton Hotel as well as our fantastic tour guide.






10.24.2011

Weekly Money Check-Up

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1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on Old Navy. I know right, I haven't shopped there in years. However I purchased a few basics for fall and everything was 25% off. 

2. Today I am thankful for having a job that doesn't stress me out too much and for having a regular paycheck I can count on. I'm just also grateful that I live in this country and that everything comes easy. It's hard to explain but I just appreciate living and being myself.


3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free thing I did last week that made me happy was catch up on some shows - Person of Interest (so GOOD!), Pretty Little Liars, and Rachel Zoe Project.


4. I will consider this week a success if I continue LSAT studying and perhaps just start writing my personal statement. I already brainstormed ideas so I just need to find the motivation to write.


5. The next big trip I am taking is probably to the east coast next May for my aunt's wedding. I'm so excited! I haven't been there since I was 11, that's 12 years ago!

Good, Bad & Ugly

I love this new blog I've been reading - Making Sense of Cents and was inspired by her most recent post. Feel free to post this on your blog as well(:

THE GOOD

  • I got my hair done on Friday and I love it so much! I finally found MY stylist here in SD. I always had to go to the bay area to my stylist but now it's more convenient for me.
  • BF and I have been cooking everyday! We've had pasta, sliders, breakfast sandwiches, steak, protein burgers, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, etc. I love homemade food.
  • As you all know I have a new credit card. I love my Chase Sapphire Preferred card! The transactions post up right away as opposed to my Citi card I was used to. Yay for points!!!
  • I've been surprised about how calm I am about studying this time around. I am sure I will be ready for the test come 12/3.
  • How am I so late to the Spotify bandwagon? I love this app! I use it on my Macbook and phone all the time. Way better than Pandora.

THE BAD

  • BF's parents are coming back from New Orleans tomorrow. We've had 1.5 weeks of privacy. It was so nice while it lasted. I'll miss cooking in the kitchen.
  • I really wish I had a job that allowed me to work from home but I'm sure I'm not alone on that one. I'm very grateful that I have a job in this economy.
  • I haven't started on my personal statement yet for my applications. For some reason it's so difficult to write about myself, and I haven't had any "life changing" moments I want to write about.

THE UGLY

  • Well remember my aforementioned hair appointment? I was planning on just getting a haircut ($25) and my roots touched up ($30) however I succumbed to my stylist's recommendation of adding more highlights - so the bill came out to $138 (for haircut, roots, highlights, styling). Not bad but just not what I was expecting. She did a fabulous job though so no complaints.
  • I have a boot addiction. I swear, every fall I end up dying over all the boots I want. This season I've already accumulated a flat black pair of leather boots from DSW (See them here - LOVE! They run a half size large) and those BP cognac ones in my last post (those run true to size).
  • I have a huge pimple on my cheek. It left a scar. I have heaps of concealer on it right now... ew!

10.14.2011

OCTOBER In & Out

I have got to admit I love these posts!

INS:

I bought these BP Runway boots from Nordstrom's and I'm super stoked! They're gorgeous in real life. Just be careful since they seem to differ with each batch. The first pair I tried on were a bit crinkly, shiny and plastic looking but when I asked the SA to bring out another pair, he brought one out that was slightly darker, but with buttery soft rich leather. Eeek!!

I've been bringing salads to work for lunch everyday with almonds for snacks. YAY!
I started running again and I've been faithfully going to pilates cardio sculpt. DOUBLE YAY!

I don't know if it's me lusting after some serious fall weather that we aren't having right now but I'm all about sexy heels. I don't really have any surprisingly since we don't need to dress up for work. One day I'll have a pair of Loubs.


I've been seriously wishing that I had my own place to decorate. I keep envisioning a welcoming home with serene and clean whites and pastels with inviting living spaces.


I want tons of mirrors, mirrored items and pretty chandeliers in my house.


I'm so ready for fall weather. I absolutely adore soft knits and I would love this one with a low v-neck back from Shopbop. How amazing do knits look with contrasting textures like the leather-ish pants she's wearing? 
I've been into inspiring quotes and I post these on my tumblr regularly. It's what keeps me going.
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Lastly, this weekend is my 6 year anniversary with my BF. Naturally I'm loving gorgeous dresses and I can't stop dreaming of the one Kate is wearing below. However this weekend I will not be going anywhere that requires a dress like that, but I will be dressing up (:

Lastly, I'm more relaxed with my study schedule now. Instead of 4-5 hours everyday and stressing, I'm much more alert when I study 2-3 hours a day.

OUTS:


Not a lot of outs so far for this month but let's roll with it so -

  • My nails are horrible. I really need to do them myself...I'm tempted to get them done because I really love myself a spa pedicure but I am trying really hard not to justify that right now. I just got my eyebrows waxed yesterday sooooo....
  • Why are Tory Burch boots so expensive. I wanted the Blaire boots SO BADLY.
  • I am tired of the summer weather...we are having a heat wave in SD and it was in the 90's yesterday. Horrible brushfire weather.
  • I am SWAMPED at work. I am definitely underpaid since I am doing about 3 different jobs. I'm sure everyone is the same especially in this economy but it drives me nuts!

10.10.2011

Something Sapphire (and Preferred)


I've been researching credit cards for awhile now and I have been wanting one that would suit all of my needs. Specifically I wanted one with rewards but the Chase Freedom quarterly rotating 5% cash back categories just didn't do it for me. I wanted frequent flyer points but didn't think the Southwest or Capital 1 cards were for me. I have a Citibank Thank You card (and it's my only card) but the rewards I earn are pitiful. I checked out so many other cards such as the rest of the Citi line-up and American Express. None of the cards were worthy enough for me...or I was just looking for the perfect card.

I remember reading up about the Chase Sapphire Preferred card but I didn't look into it too much after learning that it had a $95 annual fee. After doing more research on it, I found that it had everything I wanted. You get 2 miles per $1 for all dining/travel purchases, 1 mile per $1 everything else, and 10 miles if you book travel through Ultimate Rewards. Also if you shop through the online retailers through their portal then you get more points. I love banking with Chase (as long as I meet the requirements for no fees) and their customer service so that also played a large part in my decision. I get 50,000 points after $3k purchase in 3 months which can be redeemed 1:1 and Chase travel partners such as Hyatt, Marriott's, Continental, British Airways, etc. I can't wait to redeem them this way!!!

I was instantly approved for $5k and I was bummed since I was hoping for $10k. I don't even like keeping a balance more than $1,000 but I like having higher credit limits and I personally thought my credit score close to 800 was pretty good. Anyway this card will be my primary card since I really like the rewards system and the interest is lower than my Citi card. I forgot to mention that the amount I get to redeem my points at outweighs the annual fee based on the amount I spend. This card also pays out 7% dividend of your total bonus points, there are no foreign transaction fees and the extra travel insurance and trip cancellation perks are a plus. This card meets all the requirements I had on my list. Note: They have a regular Chase Sapphire card without the annual fee but I really wanted a card for free foreign transactions so I went with the preferred/annual fee route.

I've never been excited for a credit card before...what a nerd! I don't know what I'm going to use it for besides daily expenses so the $3k in the first 3 months will be tough for me to hit. Maybe I should start Christmas shopping for my family and then buy the iPad I was planning to buy. Obviously I can't just spend $3k to get the bonus points. My back-up plan is to pay for something my mom needs on my card and have her pay me in cash so I can rack up the points. I should have gotten this card before I paid for my LSAT classes and stuff!

Are there any Chase Sapphire Preferred members reading this? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the card:)

10.05.2011

A Thriving Business: Our Relationship

The BF and I always joke around that our relationship is a business. BF is quite the entrepreneurial spirit and I have my B.S. in business so we are both business-oriented and very dorky when we start talking. We always talk business whether it's politics, finances, the economy, the housing market, religious views, friends, family, school...you name it, we somehow manage to relate it to the business world. 


Our relationship is totally a business.

We take on positions. I let the BF take the CEO/President title because, well...he's a man and that's his dream in life! He likes to refer to me as the VP/CFO but I'm also in charge of Marketing/Legal. I'm the reader/writer/attention to detail type of person and he is very goal-oriented and creative so it's good to know our strengths and what we bring to the table.

We have to keep it profitable. We're always thinking of new ways to make more money, or to reduce debt faster. BF is getting his MBA and I am aiming for law school so we are hoping to increase our earnings potential. Keeping each other in check with spending and saving is also big in our relationship. We save money for a better future, heck we don't want to go bankrupt!

We have meetings. We have monthly meetings on the first Friday of the month to discuss our finances and we keep spreadsheets, lists, bulletin boards, white boards and post-its all over the place. It really helps to get together and voice concerns or even just to check in with each other finance-wise because it also opens up the floor to discuss anything else that may be on your minds. Funny story - I called an emergency meeting at midnight on a Saturday night a few weeks ago to talk about BF's side business, it was hilarious but he acquiesced and we had tons of fun talking for hours!

We keep records. A successful business keeps records and self audits. It's not fun but when the time comes to gather up all those documents, it's good to know where everything is. Also if something happens to one person, everything is accessible and the other is not in the dark. Besides tax forms, pay stubs, bank records and the like, create spreadsheets and notes to stay organized together with finances and goals.

We choose risks we want to take. We talk about our investing styles and we make sure to diversify our investments. 401ks, roth IRAs, stocks, bonds... you name it, we probably have it. The most important thing is to talk about it together and make sure you are on the same page. You don't have to have similar investing styles but it's always good to know what the other's is like.

We track our money. I'm sure all of you do this for yourselves but once you agree to make purchases together, combine finances, live together or anything similar you will find yourselves needing to track your combined transactions, whether it's with Mint.com or a spreadsheet or just a verbal check-in. We don't micro-manage each others' spending and we also haven't fully combined accounts yet, but I do know what he spends his money on and he knows what I spend mine on.

We look at the competition. I'm sure everyone is guilty of it but who doesn't compare themselves to others? You shouldn't and you are told not to, but you do it anyway right? We are so guilty of this! We like to compare ourselves to other couples such as our parents (and friends). It helps us figure out how they got it right and what decisions we should make in our lives. It really helps to get advice from "competitors"!

Mergers are inevitable. I'm talking about family here. When you're in a relationship, you merge lifestyles, friends and family. Everyone becomes one big happy family....sometimes :)

We will expand in the future. We've talked kids and we know that we both want them in a few years. But in order to prepare for this crazy feat, we need to plan it out. We've talked about both working while raising kids but also the possibility of myself staying at home. I would love to do that but I also pride myself on my career, but expansion definitely awaits us.

Honesty is the best policy. It would really suck if we weren't open with each other because how would we be able to trust each other and grow our business? Being dishonest causes fights or it will make you feel guilty, which doesn't equate with success. I have tried hiding shoes and purses purchases before but he always notices, and he doesn't care...so I stopped that quite some time ago!

Last but not least, we have days off, a lot of them!  :) Your relationship is a business but most importantly it's all about having fun and remembering that you are business partners but you are partners first and foremost.

10.04.2011

I Gave Up a Kitchen for Money.

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I Gave Up a Kitchen...and a Bathroom

I mentioned in my last post that we do not have a kitchen. I know what you're thinking. Where on earth do I live? Another planet?!

Well you've seen my budget, we do not pay rent because we live with BF's parents and they never take my money when I offer! Even when I leave it on the counter, it will sit there for days.

We live in a little (okay TINY, like 300 sq feet) guest room outside in their large backyard. I mentioned before that we were thinking of building a place there, even just a 600 square foot place would be 2 times larger than where we live now. It's not like we live in there all the time but we don't have a kitchen, which is why we eat out a lot. BF's parents DO have a kitchen but his mom is like queen of the kitchen and she is very particular about where things go and her refrigerator, etc. It is almost as much of a hassle to cook, clean and organize our food in there than to just get food. There also isn't much space for us to cook and store food in her kitchen so we just stay out of it. We store our clothes inside their house and our other large items so technically we don't really "live" in just 300 sq feet but we are in there all the time. We have our computers, TV, dog, bed, etc in there and we make do just fine. We also don't have a bathroom or a shower in there so if we have to go we have to go inside..and to get inside, we have to walk up a deck and around the pool so it is quite a far walk. It's a really awkward set up and I've been living like this for over a year now.

In college I cooked a lot and I really miss that. BF and I used to go grocery shopping together every week, I would post up menus on the fridge, and either I would cook sides and he would fire up the grill, or we would both cook in the kitchen together and then clean up afterwards. I was eating a lot healthier back then and I am dreaming of the day we can have our own kitchen again.

Does anyone have easy meals to make with limited access to a kitchen?

Deprivation vs. Sacrifice

I feel like I am depriving myself of a real luxury that I used to take for granted. However the money we save on not paying rent is A LOT. If we had to pay for rent for a tiny apartment in the city we live in, we are talking about 50% of my pay each month. BF has loans to pay and I will soon be in school and may not be able to work at the same time so at that point we will be expecting a salary cut and at that time we will most likely have a mortgage. The money we save from renting gives us the freedom to eat out quite often and to spend a bit more freely than if we did rent. So I feel like although I am sacrificing right now, I am happy with the lifestyle I'm living...for now. I just keep telling myself it's not permanent.

So now the secret is out. I am able to save a lot because I sacrificed things like a kitchen and a bathroom. Yes I may have to walk far to shower, use the bathroom, microwave, etc but I get exercise and in the morning, I wake up easily since I have to walk outside right when I wake up.

How far would you go to save money? 
Do you think my living situation is too extreme?

10.02.2011

September Budget Recap

To show you all how being busy makes me forget that I have a budget.... here it is!


Here's my September 2011 budget recap...
Shopping was a total fail as I mentioned in my last post. I did return the stuff from Zappos (Rafiki you know me too well LOL) and some items from F21 but I did love all my other stuff! 

I had to pay $31 to get my license renewed.

Natural dog treats are expensive - $19, but my dog only deserves the best so I get him dried chicken. He loves it so much.

I paid for 2 months of cell phone bills since I forgot to pay last month, but it's not late, I just usually like to pay early and pay right when the statement comes out. The payments are not due until the middle of the next month so I just decided to pay for 2 cycles this time to stay on track.

As you can see, I spend A LOT on food. This includes Starbucks (which has been making me go bankrupt!), snacks (which I eat a lot of), meals out with the BF (we eat out a lot since we do not have a kitchen), and me buying lunch or breakfast during work because I've had no time to prepare healthy stuff myself. Since I'm on round 2 of my prep course, I figure I will have more time to do this for October and November. I need to, because that is WAY too much money to spend on eating out.

I also spent a lot on gas this month...possibly from driving to and from class, the library, Starbucks, food places, the gym, my new pilates studio, etc. Hope to bring that down next month.

I wish I had time to do weekly spending and workout recaps again but until I have more time, looks like the monthly budget overview will have to do.

The good news is I transferred over $1,300 to savings in Sept. My down payment fund is complete so now it's time to bulk up that emergency fund, travel fund, and gift fund.

I'm also debating on whether to get myself an iPad 2 as a gift for my bday (in Nov)/Xmas/applying to law school probably in December.

Just the Overachiever


I have neglected to keep you all updated but I wanted to thank you for all your positive and encouraging comments. They have helped me immensely in this stressful time!

I was supposed to take the LSAT yesterday but withdrew right after my last practice test on Thursday night. I wasn't hitting the score that I wanted to be at yet and since I am 5 points away, this means more than 10 questions that I need to get correct. A lot of my friends from my LSAT class still decided to take it although a lot of them weren't at the score they wanted to be either but I would rather study for 2 more months and apply a bit later with a higher test score than apply early decision with a score that will be at the lower end of the scale for the law school I want to go to.

I just think that if I'm going to law school I should try to get into the one I want to go to and not just the ones that will accept me...so I do need that higher LSAT score to give me that edge. This test score is heavily weighted, moreso than your GPA, personal statement, letters of recommendation, extracurriculars, what have you. My GPA is not the best that it could have been since I started off with an engineering major. If I could just count my 2nd-4th years I would be in the high 3.5's.

Because of my decision to withdraw from taking it yesterday, I forfeited $139, but I'd rather lose the money than have a score that I don't want on my record. Also I would rather not cancel my score either; being the perfectionist I am, I want just one nice score on my application without any cancellations, etc. Withdrawing does not let the admissions people know that you were even signed up to take the test.

In addition, I decided to retake the LSAT class I was taking because I thought that going over the techniques again would be beneficial and help me stay on track with keeping the right pace at which to study. The environment and testing atmosphere as a whole was a very great experience so I'm sure I can increase by 5 more points by going this route since I already went up by 12 points within 2 months. This costed another $1,000 which included online lesson videos to supplement the course work.

As you can see I have spent a lot of money and I haven't even STARTED law school yet. I wasn't eligible for the fee waivers since I have too much in savings but I really hope to get some scholarships. To me, all this money for the LSAT prep and etcetera is worth it because it is for my future and to pursue my dream. I also registered for the December LSAT - Dec 3rd to be precise, and so that costed me another $139. Sigh.

I really hope that I get the score I want in December otherwise I will have to retake in February, and that will cost me more money not to mention heavy stress, nerves, studying, and lack of a life. For now I'll just focus on being optimistic and studying until I can get it right. I think I burned out towards the end tail of September which did not benefit me at all. If I had put more effort in the last 2 weeks rather than letting the sheer panic of it all get to me, I think I could have gotten my timing down.

Anyway, just a little update from me! Hope everyone is doing well...I start my same prep course schedule this Tuesday and I'll be having 14 hour days yet again 2 days a week and then a few hours on the weekends for class, and everyday I should be studying another 3-4 hours. Check in with you all soon! :)
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