12.30.2012

2012 Wrap-Up and Goals Recap

It's that time again...can you believe it? It seems like just yesterday when I started blogging and did my 2010 recap, my 2011 recap and listed my 2012 goals.

It also shows just how unorganized I've been ever since I returned to school. I admit this blog has fallen off the wayside a bit, but yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting some of my favorite SoCal bloggers (Budget and the Beach, Nurse Frugal, Newlyweds on a Budget, and The Random Path) and realized that we all start our blogs for a reason, and most of the time it's to be held accountable, to stay organized, and for fun. We had a ton of fun just chatting about blogging and life. I was a bit nervous since I haven't met anyone online in real life before, but it felt like meeting ol' pals! I honestly feel like these are friends I'll have for a long time, and it's because of this blog! After meeting with these ladies, I want to continue strong into next year. 2013 will be the year that I will be trying to maintain more balance with it.

The evolution of the blog...

In 2010, I felt like this blog was created to help me learn how to budget, how to save, and how to be accountable.

In 2011, this blog helped me reach many savings goals, was an outlet for the ups and downs of condo shopping in a crazy market.

In 2012, this blog started to grow and I started focusing on stats, numbers, advertising, and guest posts. Halfway through the year, I stopped focusing on growth and numbers, and instead it served as an outlet for the law school application process as well as an outlet for the transition and beginning of my law school journey.

Looking back, I love being able to remember these moments and to share them all with such like-minded people. It's amazing to connect to people that offer unsolicited advice or just an ear to listen to what I have to say, so thank you for sticking around!

I'm not sure what will happen in 2013 but I'd like to get back to talking about my saving and spending habits, as well as general thoughts about school and something I've been thinking a lot about lately..my career path and future, and all of the debt I've acquired (and am still acquiring) through my student loans. So here's to a new year!

2012 Recap

So I pulled up my post from January 1st, 2012. It's crazy how much has changed in only a YEAR! I have to chuckle at some of these goals right now, because I wrote them during a time when I just submitted law school apps, and I was earning a steady paycheck at my full-time job. What I miss the most about working (aside from the paycheck) is that I had so much time at work to get organized, and to stay organized.

Being a full-time student again with zero time while the semester is going in full-speed, priorities shifted and goals fell off of the radar since they were replaced with new goals. Regardless, I'll still rehash these goals and definitely switch them up for my current life situation for 2013.

2012 Financial Goals Recap

1. Max out Roth IRA
Lol! It's kind of hard to max out a roth IRA when you don't have a job. I was planning to do this but I had to stop contributing to my roth as of August 2012. I used to automatically deposit $300 into it every month, so for 2012 I at least got $2,400 into that account.

2. $3,000 in Travel Fund.
My travel fund sits with ING and it currently sits at $1,025. Definitely nowhere near the $3,000 I hoped for, but I don't have any plans of traveling for leisure any time soon. I should have gone on a vacation before school started but it was so busy with work and other family trips.

3. Buy an investment property with 20-25% down.
So glad this one never came to fruition. We almost bought a condo in beautiful Rancho Bernarndo (northern SD), but we backed out due to some issues that would have costed us a lot of money in repairs and headaches in the future. I'm glad this didn't happen though, since BF would have needed to stay at his job to pay the mortgage. We knew that if I was going to go to school he would have to either a) get renters or b) pay the mortgage on his own. It was possible but not ideal, especially risky, since he didn't like his job or his supervisor. He quit a few months ago so it looks like things turned out for the better.
4. Rent out investment property so monthly rent covers monthly mortgage.
Great idea in theory, but at the same time I'm glad I'm not a landlord right now. I can't handle that!

5. Vacation in cash.
Lovely dreams I had huh? I don't see a vacay coming up any time soon, but maybe in a year or 2, I'll finally get to own up to this goal.

6. Open up some sort of interest savings accounts or investment accounts for my little brother & sister.
Fail. I will instead push my parents to do this. They're at the stage right now where the only gifts they want are material items like clothes, shoes, and games.

2012 Personal Goals Recap

1. Get healthy. 
Hmmm, not sure if I hit this goal this year, but I was definitely on track during the first half of the year. I was going to turbo kick classes consistently, and gymming it everyday during my lunch breaks. When school began the stress ate me alive and I didn't make it to the gym at all, but got back into it with a new gym membership in October. Now that I'm in SD for break, I'm back at my old gym which feel so nice, and I've been cooking a lot at home and eating out less. I guess I almost obtained this goal...would like to have more time to run more and of course to cut out sweets.

2. Get into law school. Whether it's this cycle or next cycle, 2012 will be the year I get this accomplished!
Probably the only goal I can safely say I accomplished this year, haha woohoo!

3. Go home as much as possible. I love my family and I hate living 8 hours away, but it's only a 1 hour plane ride away.
Oh wait, this one too. I live with the fambam again. It's been a rollercoaster ride but a fun one nonetheless. I'm lucky to have them.

4. Go on a vacation with the BF.
Wow, when I wrote these goals I must have been itching for a vacation. That didn't happen but this year was filled with lots of family trips with the BF so that's always fun. I shall count that as reaching this goal haha.

5. Read more. I didn't get to read as much this year but I just got back into reading again. I read fiction mostly because I like to get away when I read.
Oh man, really laughing at this goal. I sure did get to read more all right. Law school = read all day errrrrday. So I guess I accomplished that.

Lol, looks like I only completed 3.5ish personal goals this year. However, I'm glad the world didn't end, but at the same time, kinda sad it didn't since I have to pay back my student loans now. I also feel like I'm at a good place in my life right now, hopefully on the right track, and just pushing to keep going.

2012 was a a great year with lots of happenings:
  • New beginnings - I moved back to my hometown and with my family again. It's so nice to be around them again, and to get closer to my siblings.
  • I started law school in August, and what a whirlwind it's been. My life 360'd on me, in a good way of course.
  • Finished finals even while I was sick, a superb accomplishment in my book.
  • No big purchases really...my BF bought me a PC laptop and I gave him my old Macbook. He also bought me a new Samsung monitor for when I'm at home and studying (and skyping with him).
  • Went to my sister's junior olympics in Ohio for the junior national volleyball championships back in July. That was fun!
  • Went on a family trip with cousins to Disneyland in the summer instead of our annual camping trip.
  • Had a family BBQ in Coronado with my family and BF's family before I moved...it was the first time our parents ever met. Can you believe that?!
  • I became addicted to gel highlighters, post-its, and other office supplies.
  • Black Ops 2 came out. Zombies is still my favorite game mode to play.
  • I dyed my hair dark after being light brown/blondeish for many years. Yay!
  • When I was working at my FT job, I really missed being around people and meeting new friends. 2012 delivered in that respect, and I gained so many new lifelong friends...from school and also from this blog!
  • Celebrated 7 years with the bf. My grandma keeps asking when we'll get married but that won't happen until I graduate. I don't think I can handle wedding planning until then, but I'm excited to spend more years with the bf, he's a good guy and he's always been good to me.
  • Celebrated my 25th birthday...writing my legal writing final paper. Honestly never thought this day would come...now I feel like I have so much to do before my next milestone of turning 30. Cheers to getting older.
I'll be back to post up my 2013 goals in a few days but for now let's all relish in the last 2 days of the year. Hope you all enjoy the new year safely with lots of friends, food, or family :)

How did you all do for 2012? 

12.12.2012

Calm After the Storm

Holy moly. The 1st semester of law school is over. I just finished my 5th final yesterday. We won't get our grades back until January but I'm only really worried about one class. I've always been worried about crim, but I'm just hoping I passed that class. I've never had to learn so much for one stupid class, and it was closed book...there is no possible way one can learn that much.

Anyway, I can finally stop living under this huge burden of stress...I can finally sleep more than 5 hours a night. I can stop being bitter about everyone else having fun and enjoying the holidays haha. I can honestly say this is the BEST feeling in the world! I can't even imagine what I just put my mind and body through to be honest. I'm in a complete state of haze. I had the most unfortunate luck, because I got sick the weekend of Thanksgiving. That was when the major studying needed to happen, so I ended up studying for contracts feeling like crap. I literally didn't think it was possible. Then it just went downhill from there and I got really burnt out. Also unluckily for me, my last final was the hardest, with the most I've had the memorize/learn. I didn't think I could pull through, but I'm glad I did. I just can't believe I have to do this 5 more times. What the hell did I get myself into?

Today I'll be doing everything that I've been needing to do...following up with my dentist after I received this HUGE dental bill. I've been stressing over it but never had the time or energy to call them to fight about it. I paid over $700 for this one tooth, and out of nowhere they send me another $400? This is all after insurance? They have got to be kidding me. I think this dentist is so unethical, because if he was going to charge me that much, he should have told me what the hell he was doing to my tooth. I had to get a crown, but after I got my temp crown (which I paid $400 for), I came back because it was hurting, and he did something to prep my tooth for a root canal and at that time I paid $300. Why would I be billed another $400? I had to go to a separate place to get my root canal where I only paid $121. So why $1100 all just for prepping my tooth for a stupid root canal? Ugh, this is giving me so much anxiety so I guess I better call them first.

Second of all, I have to call my boss. Remember how I was working part time here? Yeah, that didn't work out so well. I was losing control of everything and there was just no way I could handle working anymore. It wasn't worth it to me. Just studying and doing all of my reading, plus outlining, plus weekly memos to write, I had zero time for anything else. Well I emailed my boss about how I was feeling, and she just never responded. I just realized a week ago that I was off the payroll lol. So I have to call her back to wrap things up today. Not a conversation I'm really looking forward to, but I have to do it.

Another thing I haven't been able to do is send in a manual claim to get my medical bill reimbursed. I can't even remember what it was for anymore, but I definitely want my $300 back.

Those are the 3 biggest things in my financial life bothering me...don't you just hate it when you have to do things that are really, really important but you just dread them? Well I guess I better start on my giant to-do list. I have to clean, give my dog a haircut, dye my hair, schedule a haircut for myself, post some things up on ebay, and do normal human things again.

Btw, thanks to everyone for your support, encouragement, advice, and just listening to me rant and complain. Especially on Twitter! Haha. I'm not sure I could have handled it all alone. So thank you!

Talk to you guys soon!

11.22.2012

The Grateful Post

Hi everyone! It's been so long since I posted! Life got really crazy, and if you follow me on twitter...I apologize for all of the stress-tweets haha. I have no idea how classes for the semester ended already (yesterday was the last day), but now I can focus solely on studying for finals. I wanted to wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving and I hope you are all spending it with family, friends, loved ones, and lots of food. This is the first year that I'm hanging out by myself on this holiday since I have to study. I couldn't afford to drive 2 hours back and forth, plus spend a night at my cousins' house. Plus, the peace and quiet at home will be really nice.

This year, I am thankful for lots of things...a house to live in, a warm room, bed, support from family, boyfriend, and friends, and just being able to live. I read a quote somewhere before about being grateful for stress, because it means that you are working hard at something. Every night before I go to bed, I think about my day and how lucky I am to survive another day even if it was just a regular day. A little prayer at night always keeps me sane.

So a lot of things have been going on, all school-related though so I won't bore you. At the beginning of November I celebrated my 25th birthday at the law library, so that was a lot of fun. We had our legal writing take home final memo that weekend, and it was brutal. I barely got any sleep, lost a lot of weight, drank loads of caffeine, and probably grew some grey hair. Definitely not the way I imagined celebrating my quarter-century birthday, but I'm glad that final is done and over with. I went to San Diego 2 weeks ago for a little getaway and spent the weekend studying in a hotel with the boyfriend. I realized that sometimes you just need to de-stress and take more study breaks and change scenery to give you more momentum.

I feel like these past few months have changed me so much, for the better. Although I'm stressed out everyday, I am learning how to deal with it better than at the beginning of the semester. I take my reading to the gym, take classes at the gym with my mom, study with friends, and watch tv. Sure, I spend a lot of money at Starbucks these days, but it's the only way to self-medicate legally. I'm also learning so much about everything...the law is no joke. Pretty sure we read about 5,000 pages this whole semester. Now, I just have to relearn everything in the next few weeks. Ha!

Since classes are over I'll probably try to find ways to procrastinate so I'll most likely start popping back in and blogging more. It probably won't be about money...but I need to admit that I've been shopping (yep, I spent my birthday money instead of saved it #pfbloggerproblems). More on that in a future post.

9.22.2012

What's a Budget Again?

Okay, I think I know why I keep blogging sporadically on here. I used to use this blog to catalog my life and my financial habits. Now that I'm in school full-time and not really working (well, working enough to make a decent salary), I don't even have money to spend, save, budget, play around with, move around, or whatever.

Skip these next few paragraphs because I will talk complain about school.

It might sound cliche, but I also have no time to do anything else but school stuff. If I'm not in class, I'm reading. If I'm not reading, I'm briefing or outlining or studying. If I'm not doing the latter, I'm talking to classmates about school. If I'm not talking to classmates, I'm at a school lunch event for the free food. If I'm not at once of those, I'm at an event after school for networking. If I'm not at those events, I'm meeting up with my mentor. If I'm not doing that, I'm on a run, walking my dog, working, eating or sleeping. I've heard from many people that it gets better after the first semester, and I'm looking forward to that oh so greatly.

I think that I may just write in here more often...and it's going to be about law school...because I would like to look back on here one day and know that I prevailed (or failed, depending on how you look at it). I actually just need an outlet to channel my stress because I hate to burden the bf and my parents and non-law school friends with these thoughts. They don't understand and I just come across as this crazy, stressed out zombie who complains all the time. People start telling me that I need to stop stressing and just have fun with it, but honestly, they do not know what I'm going through and it's all easier said than done.

I also think I got really unlucky with my crim teacher. I have a love/hate relationship with him because he's a brilliant and entertaining man, but no one can understand what the hell he's saying. I do not know what I've learned in the course in the past 6 weeks and I walk out of class in a haze wondering what just happened. A girl in my class cries often after that class because she just doesn't get it. I mean really, my teacher's "sample answer" for his midterm is 60 pages long. There is no way a normal human being can write 60 pages in 1.5 hours.

This will be me during my crim midterm in 2 weeks:
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Okay onto more interesting topics...because I can complain about crim for hours.

What else...oh yeah, the point of this post was to mention that I don't have a budget right now.

I basically just try not to spend anything. My mom gives me some money when she wants me to pick up food or something, but other than that, I use my money sporadically to buy lunch probably once a week or every other week. The funny thing is, I wouldn't have believed myself if you told me a few months ago that I wouldn't be sticking to a budget. Yet, when you don't have money to spend and you are already making the max amount of money you are able to -- and don't have the time or energy to take on ways to make more money, there is no need for a budget. I'm eating at home, paying my student loan interest, cutting everything unnecessary out of my life (froyo, shopping, health insurance [talk more about that below], etc.) so I don't know what else to do. Oh, there is one thing I am adding to my list of expenses, and it's actually still a maybe.

Other financial stuff-

Sprint: Really frustrated with Sprint. I have 5 lines on a family plan and 4 of them NEVER get any service at home. Now my phone isn't sending text messages. Sprint will be happy to know that I will be calling them soon so they can enjoy an earful courtesy of me. If they do not fix anything, the wrath of zombies shall ensue and the world shall end. Or something like that. Not sure yet, but I want lots of credits back on my account, termination fees removed or the signal in my area fixed. Oh yeah, and I need my text messaging to work STAT. What the hell did I do before text messaging people....do I actually have to CALL people now?! THE HORROR.

Medical Bills: I have a few medical bills that I put on the back burner. Well, now that my benefits were cut off when my employment status changed to part-time, my credit card that has my flexible spending account $$ was cut off so I had to pay my medical bills with my money and submit a manual claim to get my money reimbursed. I really hope I get that money back soon!

Gym membership: This is what I was talking about when I might add one thing to my expenses. I have about 3.5 months left with my 24-hour fitness gym membership, but the active and sport locations near my house are absolute crap. One would not want to work out there, much less walk or drive near those gyms. I don't feel comfortable going there so it's no use to me. It was a prepaid 2-year membership that came out to about $12/mo and I think I maximized the total cost when I went to a bajillion group exercise classes as well as went everyday when I was living in San Diego.

The gym at my school is absolutely horrendous, too. There are about 7 treadmills, 7 ellipticals and 7 stationary bikes...no stairmasters and barely any weight machines or stretching areas. Also, you have to pay for group exercise classes. This would all be acceptable if the law students were the only ones to use the facility, however there are about a million undergrad students and other grad students that have access and thoroughly enjoy dominate the place because they don't have homework to do.

So there is this gym opening up near my house, and coincidentally, another location is being built near my school. It is opening in Sept and the one by campus will open in Dec. I signed up for the pre-opening special, which was $30/month and $25 initiation fee. They didn't ask for my credit card though, so my mom thinks that they added me to her account (she signed up before me). I guess I'll figure that out when the club opens. But for unlimited classes, brand new facilities, proximity to my house, no annoying undergrads, and my sanity -- I think the $30/month will be worth it if I have to pay for it.

I was planning to talk about health insurance too, but I think I'll save that for another post. See what happens when I don't blog in awhile? I just have so much to tell you guys all the time. That, or I am actually drinking Starbucks for the first time in 2 months (in which I was drinking decaf during that time).

Until next time!

9.03.2012

If it's Free, What's Not to Like?

Hi everyone! I apologize for my recent hiatus. You know the feeling you get when you know that you have a full inbox and a ton of emails to respond to, and it just keeps building up? Then when you think about how many emails you have, you just want to crawl in a corner and forget about it? I felt like that same feeling every time I thought about my blog.

But I finally logged onto my site today and remembered why I started this blog...and what is has done for me. It's kept me on track and it's kept me accountable. There is no way I want to give it up. I've been so stressed out with school but I'm realizing that I can't keep my emotions bottled up or I will just resort to stressing out even more. Writing things out doesn't cost me anything, in fact, it benefits me! The title of this post says it all - writing is free and it's something that is important to me. Blogging is not a burden to me because I love to write. It helps me so much to write my thoughts out, and I've been needing an outlet since I began this new journey.

I have so much to write about but I won't unload all of my thoughts into this one post but prepare for a little bit of everything!

School has taken over my life - I'm at school everyday from 9am until 5pm and then I read from 6pm until 3am, sometimes 2am if I am lucky. Adjusting to everything is still so difficult. I haven't had time to hang out with family, friends, or even work out. I must get on a regular workout schedule again. There's so much I want to do, yet I'm working so hard just to stay afloat with homework. I'll write another post soon about why law school is so different and why it's so stressful.

Here's a glimpse...
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The good thing about being stressed out and busy with school is that I haven't had time to properly think about shopping. I did make 2 kind of large purchases since moving here though...gotta 'fess up! I bought a Longchamp tote in slate (loving it so far!) for school, and I just ordered some Sperry topsiders last night in the Angelfish style. I needed some comfortable flats to wear to class because ballet flats and flip-flops are just not cutting it with the 50lbs of books I carry everyday.

Longchamp tote - large in slate (via)

Sperrys (via)

I also paid my first interest payment the other day! I make about $330 every 2 weeks from working my 8 hours a week so paying $123 a month is not bad at all. I mentioned in a tweet before that I was stressed out with working and that I wanted to quit. However, the additional income is worth it to me and I think I was just having trouble transitioning the first 2 weeks to the workload. I'm pretty sure I want to keep working my measly 8 hours a week just to give myself some spending money and to pay off the interest on my student loans.

I also went and got my hair done yesterday at my hairdresser who I haven't seen in awhile, but she's been my hairdresser since I was about 12. It's funny how a visit to the salon can make you feel instantly better. My hair was a mess! I got my hair dyed darker now (almost back to my natural hair color) and I don't look so disheveled now...back to looking like a normal person again. This is why I definitely want to keep my job. You never know when you could use a pick me up, especially when life is so busy. You need to be able to keep yourself sane.

That's pretty much it with my updates on my finances. Nothing has changed, except I do miss the larger paychecks and the ability to spend more freely. However I appreciate that my parents let me live at home rent-free and that I barely have to spend on food. I always eat at home and guess what, I haven't even gone to Starbucks since I moved here! I used to go to Starbucks more than twice a week when I was working.

Since it's a new month, I wanted to let you know I was all alive and the future plans for this blog. It's not dying and I'm not going anywhere! My goals are to write more consistently (whether it's about life, school, finances, shopping, etc.), stay on top of reading for school, and to keep my stress level at a minimum. Hope you are all having a good start to the new month!

8.16.2012

Should You Pay Off Interest On Your Student Loans While in School?

I should really be doing my crim law reading for later, but I got distracted (what else is new?). I've mentioned before that I wanted to pay off the interest on my student loans while I am in school. Subsidized loans were eliminated for graduate students as of July 2012 (I know, right before I started school) so with my unsubsidized federal loans, interest accrues right when the loans are disbursed. I have 2 loans so far - Stafford and Grad PLUS, and I will continually be taking money out until 2015. The interest has already started accruing, and it bothers me a lot.

Those who aren't financially savvy will think to themselves that they are only taking out a set amount for their unsubsidized loans. However, once interest is added, it is tacked onto your loan (principal) and then you will have to pay interest off of the initial loan amount PLUS interest!

Expensive tuition plus high interest rate plus not paying the interest while you are in school can equate to more than doubling the amount of your original loan once you finally get around to paying it all off.

I've done research on paying the interest on your student loans while in school and saw some articles stating that:

a) You shouldn't pay the interest on your loan because it is better to save it as emergency cash in a high-yield savings account; and

b) The money you are throwing at interest each month is so trivial (~$30/month) that it doesn't make much sense to do that.

I'm sure all of you in the PF community and those of you who are managing your money well are cringing at these statements. For fun, let's shoot down these arguments. Who the heck listens to advice on the internet anyway right??

My responses to the online "financial advice" -

a) My high-yield savings account is BARELY 1% right now - it sits at .8%. Now I'm sure that it makes zero sense at all to take out a loan at high (FIXED) interest rates of 6.8%-7.9% just to let it sit at a .8% savings account. I agree that one should have an emergency fund, but because I was able to save a substantial amount of money while I was working, I can cross this off of my list.

It wouldn't make sense for me to put the borrowed money anywhere since the markets are not returning anywhere near more than 7.9%. Well, maybe peer-to-peer lending, but that would be a huge risk that I'm not willing to take and I would have to deal with people who default, etc.

b) I can't even begin to think about what that person was thinking when they were handing out this advice. I feel bad for those who saw it and actually listened to it. This advice was given out in an actual forum for law students! First off, I'm not sure who pays $30 a month for interest these days on a loan for law school tuition. I calculated my interest just for this semester, and I have to pay a total of $149 a month just to pay the interest. Insane in the membrane! (Bonus points if you know what song that is from.)

Imagine if I were to not pay this $149/month this semester. Next semester I will be taking out more loans, and the interest will increase. This will happen each semester until the summer of 2015. Thinking about that just makes me want to faint.

Solutions

I previously wrote about scholarships, grants, financial aid, work-study programs, taking out less than you need, working, doing well in school, and using savings to pay for said interest. When you're in school full-time with a heavy workload, it's definitely hard to think about your finances, but I urge you to do it now while you still can.

Paying the interest on unsubsidized loans will lower your overall balance of the loan and will shorten your loan term considerably.

I honestly hate thinking about loans and depending on my job, because I "should" be focusing on school right now. Yet, this is important and even though repayment seems a bit far away from now, it will be here before I know. Why not alleviate your pain in the future by doing something about it now?

Thoughts

I'm honestly not sure why I felt so compelled to write this post today, but I hope that this struck a note with anyone in law school, med school, grad school, or even undergrad. This is the first time in my life that I've had a negative net worth, and to be honest, I'd rather not think about it. The easiest thing to do would be to just push it to the back of my head. When I first got an email from Nelnet (my loan servicer), I didn't touch it for a few days.

I thought to myself, I hate being in debt. I don't want to think about money right now, I'll deal with it later. But when you finally take the chance and take the time to look over your finances, budget, and what you can do to help yourself, you'll actually feel a lot better.

Do you have any other advice for someone with student loans?

8.09.2012

Keep Going Until You Cry

Hi guys! It's been a whirlwind of events since my last blog post. Seems to be a common theme these days huh? After the long 8-hour drive up to NorCal on Monday, I jumped right into orientation on Tuesday morning. I was nervous, yet excited, and met lots of surprisingly friendly people who all seemed to be in the same boat as myself.

A lot of my nerves are now calmed - I've just endured two 9-hour days full of inspiring presentations from very respectable alumni, professors, older law students, newer alumni, and various campus organizations. I still have 2 more days to go and I am beyond exhausted as I have a ton of homework/reading/briefing that I have been doing and still need to do before classes start next week.

Until You Cry...

I've had a lot of time to think during these presentations, and we even had our first meeting for our legal analysis, research and writing course. Although most would think that these topics and presentations are boring, I enjoyed every bit of it. As tired as I was and as much as I missed my BF and my life in San Diego, I can't help but think that I made the right decision and this school and this education was meant for me.

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During every single presentation, I couldn't help but feel ecstatic at how I am finally on my way to achieve a goal I've had for so long. Every speaker congratulated us for getting this far and kept reminding us that only 202 of us were selected out of over 3,000 applications. It sounds so cheesy, but for once I am excited to go to school and my whole outlook on school has changed.

During these presentations, I actually had to fight back tears because I feel like I finally found my calling. I know I've talked about it constantly for years but talking about it is so much more different than actually going for it. I think that everyone should find their passion and follow their dreams until they end up fighting the urge to hold back your tears because you feel so fulfilled and passionate about what you're doing. Whether it's work, education, volunteering, or just being a good person - it's okay to be so involved and just cry sometimes. :)

Education as an Investment

Alumni were proud to call our law school their alma mater and have mentioned that it was such a great investment. They stated that they knew it was expensive and they knew that we were wondering if it was worth the money and hard work, and they kept saying it certainly was. This really made me think long and hard about the money that I will be paying back towards my student loans in the future.

I have come to terms that I will have a student loan payment for many years, and if I do not find a high-paying job that can accommodate all my other bills and cost of living, for much longer than I would want to pay them for. That's the worst case scenario, and I am okay with that. I think we all get caught up in the numbers sometimes and I know that I get a bit blinded (or sticker shocked) at times since I have to be careful not to spend my money unwisely. However, education is such an important investment and although we complain about student loan debt, I think the pros outweigh the cons.

The point of this post wasn't just to ramble, but to just remind myself and share with others that had I been strongly opposed to student loan debt and if I was just looking at law school tuition, I wouldn't be where I am right now. I wouldn't have been immersed in this feeling that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing in my life, and I would have always had that question of "What if?" in my mind. Not everyone can get scholarship money. Not everyone can work tons of hours while going to school just to pay for an expensive tuition. But we can all focus on our goals and what we want our future to look like, and we can always try.

Have you ever felt so happy with your life that you just wanted to cry? If not, what are you planning on doing to get there?

8.03.2012

PF Link Love: Fave Reads, I'm Moving Edition

Hi everyone! Happy Friday :) It's been way too long since I did a PF Link Love post! I officially am done with working full-time. Today is my last day at our San Diego location, and it really is bittersweet. On one hand, I have a ton of work that I still have to do and that I will continue doing when I move to Northern CA, but I also have a ton of other stuff on my mind. I hope you are ready for a longish post!

Life

I got my orientation schedule, my school schedule, orientation homework and homework for my classes already. I started nothing yet besides buying my books, which was already a huge pain. I'll be driving up this Sunday to my parents' house and reuniting with my old room. My parents "remodeled" aka painted it, so I'm kind of excited about that but I can't help but feel really overwhelmed and sad about leaving my boyfriend in San Diego! We've lived together for almost 7 years now and I'm pretty dependent on him. It will take a lot of getting used to when I move to be without him, but I know we'll be just fine. I also bought a backpack! It's a DaKine and it's pretty cool. It was only $30 too. I'm going to try not to stress out but I can't help it sometimes. There's a lot to do and not enough time.

My parents came over this past week and we hung out in Coronado for a mini vacay. We had a beach BBQ with my family as well as the BF's parents and cousins, we went jetskiing at Mission Bay, and they came over to pick up a lot of my stuff. A lot of the burden is off of my shoulders for packing so I am truly grateful for that. The BF and I went to a wedding last last Sunday for his cousin, and yesterday I drove to Anaheim to visit my dad and my cousins on that side of the family. It's really tough for me because I have way too many family members (I basically have 3 sets of parents since I have 2 sets and BF has 1 set).

Some pics!
wedding on Shelter Island
Heading towards Mission Bay
View of downtown SD from the Coronado Bridge
Beach BBQ in Coronado
Dim Sum with dad in Orange County
Jetskiing at Mission Bay
bye bye stuff!
Money

I'm so stressed out about money. It was so simple to just know that I was going to get the same amount every other Friday. I could easily pay off a credit card or my expenses for the past month or whatever. I didn't have to think about it or stress out about bills because I knew that I would always get that same amount of money in two weeks. Right now everything is coming into perspective for me and hitting me hard.

I had to spend:

  • $283 at the dentist
  • $130 for my root canal
  • $460 for my crown
  • $200 for my glasses and contacts
  • $500 on books for 1st semester
  • $287 for my dog's teeth cleaning and extractions
  • $200 for my last urgent care visit
I still need to pay/buy:
  • $300 for parking permit
  • $40 for locker
  • $200-$300 for 3 more books
  • I think I still owe my OBGYN some money ($200) for an ultrasound.

I also have been spending a lot on food (since I had a ton of vacations), gas, school supplies, and just fun stuff since I'll be going back to school. I need to take a look at my student budget and readjust everything. I need to take a deep breath and know that I am prepared to take on everything because I can use my savings to pay off all of these expenses (that I put on my CC so I could get rewards) and I will still be getting income from work and student loans for tuition.

July was the first month where I actually came out NEGATIVE for the first time in a looooong time. It depresses me, but at the same time, I feel good knowing I have savings to cover it and I'm still not broke. I still have money but yet I feel so broke. It's probably because I won't be getting that same paycheck every other week. My net worth is still positive but it's about to change when I get those loans disbursed to me and pay for tuition. I'll post my student budget in the near future. It will probably calm me down.

Work

Work has been going well, albeit freaking busy! Last week was my last week of full-time work. It was bittersweet but at the same time refreshing. I really hate being at my desk and inside for so long. It's mentally draining and I'm excited to get away from that. This week I started my 8 hours a week schedule and it's really nice. I'm not stressing as much as I normally do, and I have everything straightened out for when I move up north.

I feel really lucky that my company is accommodating me and all of my requests. I was originally going to work out of the San Leandro location, but it's a long 45 minute drive from my house. Since I'll only be going 1 or 2 days a week, I asked the GM if I could work out of a patient service center near my house. Luckily we have a ton of locations and labs so I can work at any of them. They are setting up my office, making me keys, and the IT guy is prepping my comp with all the programs I need. I feel very grateful that they are giving me this opportunity. I hope that I can keep working here all throughout school so I can come back as in-house counsel after I graduate. Would be my dream job...but let's just take it one step at a time.

PF LINK LOVE

I've been a bad blogger. Here are some of my favorite reads over the last couple of weeks.

Reframing Issue by Frugal Portland
The Dumbest Thing I Ever Bought on Credit by So Over Debt
Fast Food: When Buying to Get More Backfires by Money Life and More
Dating in the Workplace by Makin the Bacon
House Issues by Bog of Debt
Finding Time to Relax without Feeling Guilty by Savvy Financial Latina
How to Split an IRA or 401k in a Divorce by The Free Financial Advisor
Going to Private School Affected My Financial Life by LBee at Mr. CBB's
Entitled or Hard Earned by Below Her Means
The 3 Most Important Questions to Ask Yourself by Blonde on a Budget
Word for My 27th Year on Earth by Serendipity's Guide to Saving
My Way Isn't Right and Neither is Yours by Daily Money Shot
The Magic of Compounding Interest by LBee and the Money Tree
Things I've Learned About Myself While Travelling Alone by eemusings
Saving Money By Taking Your Own Lunches to Work by Modest Money
Road Trip of California on a Budget by Savvy Scot
Distinguish Yourself by Fearless Men
Why I Won't Scrimp on Life Insurance by Money Bulldog
Christmas in July by The Random Path
Being Cheap or Frugal - 12 Signs You've Gone Too Far by Work Save Live
Overcoming Envy - Why Do We Hate Other People's Success? by My Money Design
My Stupidest Financial Decision by Financial Confessions of  a Former Brat
And I Hit Rock Bottom by Bog of Debt
Levels of Financial Freedom by Leight PF
Tomorrow by See Debt Run
Why I Travel by Money After Graduation
Spending and Saving: Money & Our Kid by Master the Art of Saving
Paper Chain by JD Debt Free

Blog Updates

Thanks to Jill for pointing out that Business Insider featured my guest post I wrote for Aloysa at My Broken Coin, My Top 10 Worst Shopping Mistakes. I was extremely happy! Check out the feature here!

I've been thinking a lot about this blog and I just wanted to let you all know that I'm not disappearing or abandoning the blog, but I will definitely not be updating it as frequently. Between going to class for over 13 hours of the week, homework, working at our NorCal lab, and getting used to a long-distance relationship and living at home, I think I won't have time to update here regularly. When I do get the chance to blog, I'll probably post about my life and how stressed I am over money! Hope you'll all still hang around :)

I also wanted to let you guys know that I will try to comment on other blogs as much as I can, and I'll still try to do some link love posts here and there, but I have cut down considerably. I'm sorry for not being able to read up as much and comment. I really do need to catch up! I think I will have time next week. Also, I haven't been available on Twitter either but once I have time I will tweet posts as I usually do.

How is everyone enjoying their summer?

7.24.2012

I Don't Even Have a Backpack

I need to vent guys. I’m feeling scared, overwhelmed, stressed, nervous, and every adjective in the dictionary that is synonymous to these words. As I was texting Kaylan this morning, I attempted to feebly express my feelings about my impending departure from my familiar 9-5 world (or shall I say 7-4?) and re-entering the academic world by texting the words, “I don’t even have a backpack.”

via lululemon.com - Wouldn't a Lulu backpack be cool? Might be impractical, but it's nice.
Just rereading those 6 words over and over again signifies everything that I am feeling right now. What is possibly the most important item and most representative item that classifies a student as a student, is something that I don’t even possess yet! Who knew a backpack could give me such anxiety? This makes me feel really unprepared.

As I’m freaking out about the homework that was assigned for the intensive five-day orientation, the homework assigned for the first day of classes for all of my classes, leaving the BF to begin our long-distance adventure, turning back the hands of time back-to-the-future style and moving back in with my parents, returning to my hometown that I thought I’d never return to…I am realizing that I am in no way, shape, or form to begin my new endeavor and journey.


Why? 
Because I don’t even have a backpack!

It feels like just yesterday when I was making the decision to even attend school this year. Remember when I got rejected from my first choice and was going to retake the LSAT? Remember when I just took the LSAT? Remember when I just sent in my applications? Time flies. 
I still get shocked when I see that the year is 2012. Can we all just get a pause button?
I’m also very grateful to be able to have this outlet and to have friends and readers (YOU!) come along this journey with me. I get so many awesome comments and words of encouragement that it really makes my day and gives me the confidence that I can achieve my goals. So thank you for being here for me :) Example:
I love you Cait!

I think the key here is that I need to make my own pause button. I’m telling myself (after allowing myself to freak out at times)
that it’s okay if I’m not ready to go back to school. It’s been three years since I’ve stepped foot into a graded class, but I shouldn’t be intimidated. If anything, I have 17 years of solid experience in education (K-12 and college, duh!) and I shouldn’t fear it.
I have a tendency to fear anything new, especially after becoming comfortable in a routine. I think sometimes I have too much time to think. I’m an over thinker, and I think that’s my biggest flaw. My dentist even says that I ask too many questions and do too much research. I think the problem with that is I need to always have control of my situations. I notice that I get very antsy, stressed, and nervous when I don’t have full control or when I do not have all the answers right away.

What was the point of this post again?

Oh yeah, I am realizing that I need to calm the F down! I think law school will be filled with people that have similar personalities to mine. There will be go-getters, hard workers, type A personalities, and overachievers. People are probably freaking out just like me because they have no control right now and we all have no clue what's in store for us.
The best advice that I’ve gotten from a handful of people have been to just relax, and enjoy what’s left of my life before school begins. This brings back memories of the week before my LSAT class commenced last July. Except back then, the end was in sight (December 2011) and I knew that the torture would stop after a brutal 4-5 hours of testing. I need to remind myself that there will be an end to this madness (May 2015, can you come any sooner?).
I’ve tried reading law school prep books, reading blogs about law school, talking to people in law school, talking to practicing attorneys as well as non-practicing attorneys, enrolling in an online law school prep class, and I just feel overwhelmed by it all.
Over these next 2 weeks, I’m going to put all of that down (except for my homework) and focus on my last week of working, enjoy my last vacation with the BF and family, and fully enjoy my last weekend here in San Diego. I also might play some PS3, finish the Fifty Shades of Grey series, go to turbo kickboxing class, and do everything I love. Oh, and I might also look into a good backpack.
I’m giving myself a pause button.

via lululemon.com. Maybe this one would be more practical?
So, you knew this question was coming...what are your favorite backpack brands? Any suggestions?

7.23.2012

Financial Mistakes to Avoid During College

Happy Monday! Today I am guest posting over at Aloysa's blog, My Broken Coin, about my My Top 10 Worst Shopping Mistakes. Check it out and show some love :) It was definitely a fun post to write.

Today I have a guest post by my buddy Sean over at One Smart Dollar. This post totally ties into my last post on stressing about student loans, and I thought it was a great supplement to those looking to go back to school or just starting college. His objective is to teach about personal finance based on both personal knowledge and experience.

College was easily one of the best times of my life. It was a time that I really became my own person and I found out who I really was. Some people (my parents) might say that I had a little too much fun, but in the end I received a degree from a top business school, I made some great friends and I met my wife.

In the past, I have talked about how there are plenty of high paying jobs available for those who decide not to go to college. On the other end, I believe that I have endless opportunities available to me now that I do have my degree.

via
Most incoming freshman are around 18 years old and it’s the first time being out on their own away from their parents. Most have never had to go grocery shopping, pay bills or even finish their homework without being told to do so. College is a time that most will make their first big financial mistakes. Luckily these mistakes can be avoided if you follow a few simple steps.

Financial Mistakes to Avoid During College

Not Applying for Financial Aid or Scholarships

If your family does not have the money set aside for your college tuition, you will need to make sure you stay up to date on all the requirements and deadlines for financial aid. Here in Colorado the deadline for application is June 30 for the upcoming school year. There are several different options available to you when looking for aid. 

·         Federal Loans – Generally have the lowest interest rate, currently as low as 3.4 percent for a direct subsidized loan.
·         Private Loans – Another option but almost always has a high interest rate compared to federal loans.
·         Grants – Grants are a form of financial aid that doesn’t need to be repaid unless you withdraw from your classes.

Scholarships are widely overlooked by a lot of college students because they feel they are only for students with top grades. Scholarships are actually available to almost any student no matter what your grades are, what income level your family is or what race you are. One of the most informative websites for college scholarships is FastWeb.com.

Failing to Set Up a Budget

I will be the first to admit that setting up a budget was not something I did in college.  It also caused me to be quite broke most of the time. Most students either do not work or work part time due to class schedules. Because of this, income flow is going to be very slow. Having a proper budget will force you to stay on track of your spending and let you know when going out with your friends is not an option.

Not Understanding the Reality of Credit Card Use

Heading off to college not only means the first time on your own but also the first time most will have a credit card. Unless properly educated, that first college student credit card can end up causing a lot of damage. Some will use their credit card as a way to get around their limited budget, however, this will just leave you or your parents further into debt.

Make sure you use this opportunity to build your credit by using your credit card sparingly. This will not only give you a head start on being able to obtain lower rates on future financing, but it will allow you to get into a routine of staying within your means.

Jumping into a Major Too Quickly

Many college students will end up changing their major at least once during their 4+ years of school. While this isn’t the end of the world, it can end up costing you a lot of extra money. If you make the choice to switch majors then there is a good chance some of the classes you have taken will no longer be required for graduation. This is money that could have been used elsewhere.

Not Planning Ahead Before You Study Abroad

There is only one big regret I have from my time in college and that was not taking advantage of the study abroad program that was offered. While traveling has always been a passion of mine, I could never get myself to want to leave for an entire semester.

Too many times students choose their program for the wrong reason. They either pick it based on the location or it’s just the right cost. Just because it might be a cheaper program, doesn’t mean it’s the right program for you. Talk to your advisor and make sure the classes that you will be taking are approved for your major and will transfer. If they won’t then that particular program might not be the best fit for you.

College is supposed to be one of the best times of your life. If you follow these simple steps, you will not only enjoy yourself but you will also start your professional carrier on the right foot.

What financial mistakes did you make in college that you wish you could have prevented?

7.22.2012

Lifestyle Carnival #12: Fifty Shades of Grey Edition

Welcome to the ninth edition of the Lifestyle Carnival! Submit to the next edition using this carnival submission form.

via
I enjoy a good book, and without even planning to fully commit to reading 50 Shades of Grey, I have far surpassed 700 pages within a few hours. I haven't been this engrossed in a fictional book for about a year now, since I forgot how much I truly enjoy reading. I have to read such dry material for work (contracts) and then there was studying for the LSAT (even drier material), that I lost my passion for reading this past year or so.


The book centers around a 21-year-old women who gets involved in an S&M relationship with a billionaire (multi-billionaire?). Let's just say that it's pretty engrossing and not for the faint of heart. Btw, I don't regularly read books like this, but one of my friends let me borrow her book because my mom wanted to read it. What started as a few pages turned into a really long book session. It's apparently taken the world by storm (kind of like Twilight, but for grown-ups). 


I'm not going to get into the book too much, but if you are reading it or have read it, feel free to voice your thoughts in the comments! I like discussing books :) and this one certainly poses lots of questions for discussion. 


Btw, was anyone else thinking that Matt Bomer could totally play the part of Christian Grey? He could totally channel the wholesome rich billionaire type who has a dark secret.


via

I could also see Jensen Ackles in that role. Right!?? He can play uptight/filled with angst Christian so well.

via

As for Anastasia...not sure. I am picturing someone like Lucy Hale from Pretty Little Liars.



via

Does anyone else like to predict which actors and actresses they'd enjoy playing a certain role?



I'm obviously a huge fan of reading about personal finance, and possibly even how personal finance affects your lifestyle, but every now and then it's fun to inject some reading into your system purely for entertainment purposes or even educational purposes that are not related to spending, saving, investing, and whatnot. I personally enjoy reading about fashion, travel, recipes, interior design, parenting, health and fitness. 


I would really love to see more lifestyle posts submitted to the lifestyle carnival, but here are some great lifestyle reads for you to peruse on this lovely Sunday morning (or whenever you're reading this).


I would like to highlight some of my favorite submissions in no particular order:
Steven Zussino
 @ Grocery Alerts writes How to turn a $23 dollar pork leg into 45 meals - Meat is one of the most expensive items we buy at the grocery store. I have no skill nor do I know how to butcher a whole leg of pork but within 30 minutes the whole leg was cut up into roasts, pork cutlets and pork stew. We managed to create 45 servings approx. for $22 and 30 minutes of work.

Everything Finance @ Everything Finance Blog writes When Women Make More than Their Husbands - I make more money than my husband. And according to 2009 Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, I’m not alone. Almost 40 percent of U.S. working wives are out-earning their husbands.But what happens to the dynamics in a marriage when a wife makes more money than her husband?

Paul Vachon @ The Frugal Toad writes Family Finances - Tips for Avoiding Conflict - Discussing the family finances causes more arguments between couples - 3 per month on average - than any other topic. So what causes most arguments about finances? The majority of couples state that misunderstandings between needs versus wants are at the root of most disagreements.

Miss T. @ Prairie Eco Thrifter writes Six Ways to Reuse Your Plastic Grocery Bags - If you hate waste, then these bags probably drive you nuts. Fortunately, there are a number of things that you can do with plastic grocery bags to give them a second life.

Onto the rest of the carnival!

TRAVEL


Jeremy @ Modest Money writes How Airline Credit Cards Cost You More - If you are going to be using a credit card to make purchases, it'ss a no-brainer that you'll want to earn some kind of reward in return. For many people, the obvious choice is an airline miles credit card. Unfortunately that credit card choice may actually be costing them more money to use.

Steve Zussino @ Canadian Personal Finance writes Why Kickstarter is overrated as an investment - Have you heard of Kickstarter? Kickstarter is a crowd funding website for creative projects. I wanted to share some thoughts why it is a poor investment.

HEALTH

Matt @ Living in Financial Excellence writes Budget & Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Products - Did you know that the average household (spends) between $1,800 and $3,600 a year on cleaning products? Try these green products which are free from bleach, phosphates and ammonia. Get rid of those toxic cleaners and start fresh with these easy on your budget and better for the environment products.

WEALTH AND RETIREMENT


Kurt Fischer @ Money Counselor writes Credit Card Debt Trends - Based on statistics recently released by the Federal Reserve, Americans paid off a bit of their massive credit card debt during the recession. And credit card issuers have slashed borrowing limits.

PB @ Economically Humble writes My Lesson Learned: Get Speaker Consulting Details (and fee) In Writing - This post discusses the lessons I learned by not requesting a formal speaker contract when working with a non-profit that I regularly contract with. I explain what I learned and provide questions every speaker should ask in addition to links to simple and detailed speaker contracts. The post will publish on Jul 21, 2012 @ 2:03AM MST.

Echo @ Boomer & Echo writes 35 Ways To Save Money - We all know there are plenty of ways to save money, but some things are so obvious you can classify them as common sense rather than smart spending.

MR @ Money Reasons writes Progress On Financial Independence - Still Swimming to Shore - This is the third update on my progress toward financial independence. Hopefully in five years I'll break through the financial independence threshold!

MMD @ My Money Design writes How to Read and Evaluate Basic Stock Metrics - Have you ever looked at a stock online and wondered what all the metrics represent? Which ones are good and what is their significance? This exercise walks through a stock page on CNN Money and explains the importance of each of the metrics to you.

Little House @ Little House in the Valley writes When It's Time to Assist the Parents - It’s not easy for parents to ask for help, and it’s not easy for kids to accept the possibility of a role-reversal. I know this first-hand because I’ve been confronted with an ever-looming possibility that I might need to step in and offer some assistance very soon. Yet, knowing my own parents, I have to do it graciously or else be chided for interfering in a matter I “don’t understand.”

Peter @ Bible Money Matters writes Our Wealth Can Put Us at a Disadvantage - While we are very blessed to not have to worry about the necessities of life like food, clothing and shelter, there are times when our wealth can put us at a disadvantage.

Young @ Young And Thrifty writes How To Get Your Employer to Pay For School - The decision on whether or not to go back to school to upgrade your skills (whether you are talking about a graduate degree, a diploma, or a certificate program of some kind) often hinges on the financial viability of it.

Teacher Man @ My University Money writes The GPA Crush of First Year - Most people are pretty familiar with the infamous “Freshman 15”. The universal idea is that when you move away from home and/or are off of a set schedule for the first time in your life, you might make some decisions that aren’t in your best long-term interests. However, while the solution to putting on some weight is pretty straightforward, other long-term problems created in your freshmen year can be much more complex and difficult to solve.

Katie @ The Discount Coder Blog writes 10 ways to cut your small business running costs - Starting your own business can be an expensive venture, but there are ways to control your outgoings without jepordising productivity. This informative post looks at a few of the ways you can save.

Robert @ Entrepreneurship & Life writes How to Improve Work Life Balance - Learning how to improve work life balance is essential to maintaining a healthy and productive lifestyle. Below, you will find a thoughtful approach to maintaining this balance.

GOOD EATS

Penny Thots @ Penny Thots writes Pesto: The Elegant Sauce - There’s nothing lighter, spicier — and incidentally, more elegantly frugal — than a plate of pasta with vivid green garlicky-with-cheese-and-nuts pesto sauce.


What are your favorites? Hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend!
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