3.31.2012

Weekly Round-Up of Favorite Reads

Happy Saturday everyone! I took yesterday off and drove to Anaheim on Thursday after work to meet up with my little sister and her volleyball club for their tournament. It's been mad craziness and we're taking a break right now until they play again from 11am to 1pm, and again from 5-9pm or so. Yesterday was pretty much the same schedule and I think I burned a million calories walking to and from the parking structure alone!

Here were some of my favorite reads this past week. There were a lot more but I'm running short on time so I will hopefully provide a longer list next week!

The Simple Dollar posted Six Ways He Saves Money With Fresh Produce. I thought this was a really good read and something that I should focus more on.

The Happy Homeowner wrote about how Whitney Houston's Songs Can Teach You About the Roth IRA.

Minting Nickels posted up a cool interview with Carla of Half Dozen Daily on how she makes money by sewing.

Interesting and quite motivating post by Sohee Lee Fitness about how those of us with average genetics are actually quite lucky.

American Debt Project wrote about his blogging history and what every blogger needs to know.

Speaking of blogging tips, Young Professional Finances wrote a great post about her blogging history and finding a niche in blogging.

Lastly, I spent a ton of unwarranted time on this website that Elle introduced to me this week: #whatshouldwecallme - Check it out if you love laughing, you're welcome!

Thanks to everyone else who linked up to me as well, it is greatly appreciated :)

It's also been fun chatting with everyone on twitter this week. As Daisy said, tweet or die! So add me friends - @shopping2saving or click on the widget to the right.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

3.29.2012

Push Yourself to The Limit


I completed this crazy hard treadmill workout at the gym the other day (and have since been addicted to Julie at PBFingers's treadmill workouts). I was huffin', puffin' and literally grabbing onto the treadmill for dear life as I thought I was going to pass out from being so tired.

But I kept going. And I was glad I did.

I may not have made it to the end of the 30 minutes but I made it pretty damn close... and finally decided I couldn't take any more after 27 minutes. I also didn't follow the speeds down to the last detail, but I tried as best as I could. I couldn't get to speed 10.0 but I went to 8.5 and I felt like I was going to fly off. I modified each one to the point where I was still pushing my limits to the max, and I went faster when I thought it wasn't possible. At 24 minutes I wanted to stop since I thought I couldn't take it anymore, but I hopped off for a few seconds to wipe my sweat off and I got right back on to do another 3 more minutes.

As I was breathing hard and dripping in sweat, I noticed that I was the only one hauling butt! I was on a treadmill at the back so all the other cardio machines such as the other treadmills, ellipticals, stairmasters, stationary bikes were all in front of me in full visibility. The place was packed as it always is during lunch time, yet I couldn't find one person that was breathing as hard as me or looked like they were killing themselves.

Why wasn't anyone else pushing themselves to the limit?

This made me realize that this question applies to everything else, especially personal finance. This motivated me to promise myself that I would push myself to MY limit for my finances. People get comfortable in their ways whether it's their workout or their spending/saving habits. I've gotten comfortable in my saving habits, and I want to push myself harder. After I reached my savings goals of the down payment fund, travel fund, gift fund and emergency fund, I've been very loose with myself. I want to get out of my comfort zone and feel the burn with my savings habits...I want to feel like I'm pushing myself to my limit and use this motivation to save more aggressively.

What will you do to push yourself to your limit and get out of your comfort zone? 

3.28.2012

Bill Please!

Happy Wednesday everyone! Today I have a guest post from Jessica at Mo' Money Mo' Houses talking about one of my favorite things - eating out. Be sure to check out her sassy yet savvy blog.

Hey! My name's Jessica, I'm in my mid-twenties, I have a degree in filmmaking, and somehow got sucked into the world of personal finance (possibly because I've always wanted to be an artist, minus all the starving). I love baking, shopping, and consider myself something of a somelier of cheap wine. But most of all I love saving money and telling people how I do it on my blog Mo' Money Mo' Houses.



When it's time to pay the bill and you're out with a guy (be it a friend, boyfriend, or some random you met on Plenty of Fish) do you find that the server 9 times out of 10 assumes the guy is paying? Okay, to clarify by "you" I mean all you ladies. But it would be interesting to see who the server goes to for payment when it's two guys. I guess the one who looks the most rich?


both photos via
Anyways, why I'm bringing this up is that the last few times my BF and I have been out for dinner, even though I put my credit card on the table which quite obviously has my name on it, the server almost always hands the bill over to my BF. Then there's the awkward moment of me telling the server that I'm actually paying, then we all have to force some laughter and I wind up making some stupid joke like "I may be wearing a skirt but I'm the pants" which I immediately regret because it sounds super douchey.

Maybe I'm overreacting over a few oversights made by a couple servers, but come on! I'm an independent lady of independent means. I bring home my own bacon and eat it too! So why is it that when it comes time for the bill, the wait staff don't think I've got my own VISA or a wad of cash in my purse. Well, I don't think I've ever had a wad of cash in my purse, I'm not stupid. Why don't I just yell "Rob me!" out on the street corner.

So, I'm just curious if any of you (ladies) have experienced this too?

-Mo Houses' out!

3.27.2012

Money Shuffle Time!

Swooped this idea from Vanessa at Random Thoughts & Acronyms, who originally got this from Daily Money Shot. Also check out my friend Serendipity's over here! So click away to read their shuffles.


RULES: Set your iPod on shuffle and write down the first 5 songs (yes, the actual first 5 songs) that come up. Think of a financial situation that you were in that was related to the song title but not necessarily the subject matter of the song.


Ready? Let's go! Btw, I use my phone as my "ipod":


via (not my actual phone, but this is from an HTC EVO)
  1. Rollerblades by Eliza DoolittleI really don't have much to say about rollerblades besides the fact that I love this song and I love rollerblading. When I first moved to San Diego, I wanted to buy these really cute white and pink rollerblades by K2, which were over $100. I never purchased them but now that I think about, maybe I should have. That would have been a great investment because I could have gone rollerblading for free a bunch of times.
  2. What I've Done by Linkin Park - One of my faves from Linkin Park. It gets me in a better mood when I'm frustrated (try running to this song, it's pretty awesome). This song title reflects how I was feeling after I looked at my credit card debt after going on crazy shopping rampages, most notably when I purchased a few designer bags with my CC. It was a bad, bad time and I'm glad those days are over. Actually I felt this way every time I used to log into my credit card account when I was still in my shopaholic days.
  3. Whine Up by Kat DeLuna ft. Elephant Man - This song came out during the summer of my sophomore year in college and I loved running to this song. I still do actually. Whenever I hear this song, it brings me back to summer days and the parties during college. I'm feeling nostalgic. Gone are the carefree days when my mom gave me money and I spent it all on going out. Good times.
  4. Hypnotizing (Michael Mind Project Remix) by Ducks on Dope - Did I get the luck of the draw when I put my songs on shuffle for this activity? Do I even need to say what this song title reminds me of? I was hypnotized when I was a sucker for online shopping. I was hypnotized into thinking that credit cards meant free money. I was hypnotized by the pretty shoes and nice lighting and free overnight shipping. Thank goodness those days are over.
  5. Blackout by Breathe Carolina - I'm not sure what else to think when I hear the word "blackout" besides being blacked out after a night of crazy drinking. Luckily I have never blacked out (to my knowledge, I would have remembered if I did....right?) so I can't really say much about it but I don't think I'd want to. This also reminds me of the great San Diego blackout last year that was caused by one worker who accidentally caused an electricity blackout for the entire county of San Diego and parts of Phoenix. Let's just say we all saved money that night since we were all stuck at home, however it did cause quite a stir with schools being shut down, etc.
Hope you enjoyed this post! If you decide to partake in this, please let me know in the comments below!


Also - Check out Carla's giveaway for a cute little pouch! I'd use it for lipsticks and aspirin in my purse.

3.26.2012

Personal Finance & Video Games - Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies

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Happy Monday everyone! You have no idea how excited I am to write this post. The BF and I have been having video game withdrawals since our PS3 burned out last weekend. That’s when it donned on me that I have learned so much from playing zombies on Call of Duty: Black Ops. You can play individually or up to 4 players online and there are endless waves of zombies that you and your team have to strategically distract, grenade, blow up, shoot, and kill. If you haven’t played before, this game takes a lot of thinking coupled with certain lessons that I thought would be important to take away.

My post today will talk about how this game can be turned into a huge analogy with personal finance. I apologize in advance if I start geeking out like a major gaming nerd, but I’ll try to make this as concise as possible. If you have a PS3 or an Xbox or even a Wii, this game is so worth it just for the zombie maps! I do like playing multi-player as well but the amount of work involved in zombies is just so fun!

Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies and Personal Finance

You can’t be selfish – Everyone has to be able to get enough kills to earn enough money. If someone keeps dying, everyone loses points (money). You also can’t be the only person earning all of the money and expect to survive all the way to the later rounds. My brother does this all the time and it drives me nuts when he starts complaining that we “suck”…uhhh no, you just stole all of our kills and spent it all on the mystery box until you got your ray gun and thunder gun. Sheesh.

You need to save up – It’s so easy to get tempted into buying everything all at once. In order to get to the higher levels, you will need to save money so you can get through the doors, get to the mystery box, and get your first perk, Juggernog. There are other perks too like Speed Cola, PHD Flopper, Quick Revive, Mule Kick, etc that will help boost your "powers" if you will. In order to get better guns, you have to hit the mystery box so save, save, save all your cash so you can get your items. You'll also need 5,000 to upgrade your guns later. If you die, say bye to your perks and guns and you’ll be happy you saved some cash so you can start earning points again.

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You need to plan ahead  In the various maps, you have the same task – survive while killing zombies, but they get harder to kill and harder to control. Plan – you need to save money, then buy juggernog, then get your guns… this should last you a few rounds. If your teammates keep dying, get Quick Revive, and at this point I usually like getting claymores to place around the map along with better guns (my faves are the galil, commando, AUG and ray gun). Once that happens, split up with your team so hoards of zombies don’t kill all of you at once. You’ll then want to upgrade your gun when you get past level 20ish. I’ve upgraded sooner but sometimes I like to collect perks like the Flopper (explode when you jump) and Speed Cola (reload quicker).

You will need to invest – I know 2,500 seems like a lot of money to spend on juggernog. You may end up at 0 after this, but it will be worth it. Same goes for mystery box items and claymores. If you plant those claymores around the map you can run there when you have a ton of zombies following you, and the claymores will explode if the zombies step on them. Investing in a better gun will get you further as well, you can’t expect to keep your handgun right? You’re allowed to carry 2 guns so get the most bang for your buck by paying for the mystery box until you get your favorite guns. I sometimes spend thousands just to get my galil but it’s so worth it!

via (this is a crawling zombie!)
You need to work with your team (kind of like working together on your finances in a relationship): This is why it is important for everyone to have a mic or some way to talk to each other. My BF and I are always talking (during playing) about our plans and which way we are going to go (which door to open first) and where to camp out. I can’t just go running off without knowing what he is doing because sometimes we need to make crawlers (zombies without legs that crawl on the ground) a the end of a level when all the zombies are gone so we can finish some objectives, turn on the electricity or buy guns without worrying about getting attacked.

You can’t just bail out when it gets tough: If you’re stuck in a corner and you die, you can’t just bail out, especially if you are the host. This would end the game for everyone, which would result in major anger tantrums by the other players. It isn’t a rule that you can’t do this but it gets irritating if this happens a lot. You need to learn how to get out of the troubled situation (whether you’re being swarmed by zombies in that corner or not), not run away from the zombies.

You have a responsibility: When you’re playing with a team, you have a responsibility. It would be beneficial for everyone to have different types of upgraded guns (crossbow, thunder gun, ray gun) so that you can defeat the zombies as best as possible. Even though everyone wants a ray gun, it’s probably not in the best interest of the whole team for that to happen. Coordinate with your team to try and figure out who should be doing what and most importantly, have fun!

Warning! This game is pretty graphic and of course has lots of shooting and violence. I don’t recommend anyone under 18 to go out and buy this game, so do so at your own risk. My little brother is 15 and he has been playing these types of games since he was 12 or something and he seems pretty normal so I can’t speak for the young guys in your life – they may already be playing this game. Also, I swear I'm not a teenage boy in real life.

Do any of you play this game or play games that teach you about money?

3.25.2012

How I Rent Movies for Free (from BlockbusterExpress)

Since we are such a savvy and smart community of PF bloggers, I'm sure you all know how to rent movies from Blockbuster Express for free right? If you don't, hopefully this post will get you a few free movies!

This weekend, we had the pleasure of renting and watching Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Immortals and Tower Heist all for free! The BF and I are total homebodies, so after a measly attempt at studying after work on Friday, I threw in the towel and relaxed with some Hershey's Toffee & Almond Nuggets, Twilight and some Costco frozen pizza.

I'm not a huge fan of Twilight but since I had already seen the first two, I obviously had to watch the third movie. BF wasn't a huge fan of the movie but he stuck through the entire thing without falling asleep. Success.

via Victoria Secret. The leggings I got have a black and white striped waistband with the words LOVE PINK in blue. LOVE!
On Saturday, we hung out with some friends from college that we haven't seen in awhile! We hit up the Las Americas Outlets literally right by the border. If you follow me on twitter, you'll know that I purchased Victoria Secret cropped leggings for $14. I was happily surprised since the tag read $19, originally $32.50. I almost caved and bought these on the VS website for full retail PLUS shipping. So happy! I also managed to resist the 10 panties for $30 deal. I spent about 10 minutes carefully selecting my favorites and after walking towards the cash register, I snapped back into reality and threw them all back in the bins. *cue applause*

On Saturday, it was BF's choice to pick a movie and he chose Immortals. It was an intense movie which was entertaining yet it felt a little long. Again, since it was free I probably enjoyed it more than if I had to pay for it. Today, I took another practice test this morning (scored a 159) and was surprised that the BF picked up Tower Heist. I kept skipping over this movie but surprisingly, it turned out to be my favorite movie this weekend. If you like comedies, you'll definitely enjoy this one.

Before I buy anything online, I always Google to find any promo or coupon codes. You'd be surprised at how often you could get items for cheap or in this instance, for free. For BlockbusterExpress, I love using Coupon Dad to find keywords to text Blockbuster. Within 2 minutes, you'll get a code that you can use either online or at the kiosk. I usually reserve my movies online, put the promo code in, and bam - free movie! You don't have to worry about wasting gas to check if the movie is in stock, and you won't even be paying for the movie. All of my coupon codes that I received this weekend were up to $3.00 off. A rental is typically $3.00 or $2.00 a night. Just don't forget to return it the next day before 9pm or you'll have to pay a nominal late fee.

I shared this tip with an elderly couple on Friday night, and it was so fun to hear how amused and grateful they were...just had to share this tip with you guys too!

3.24.2012

Growing Up: Broke to Comfortable

Happy Saturday! I thought I would share my childhood with you guys since I like reading about others' lives and how they grew up. Feel free to share your story in the comments!

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Growing up with a single mother was pretty difficult. I remember kids making fun of my Payless brand shoes because I didn't have Nikes. I had to wear the same pink power ranger costume for 3 years in a row since we could not afford a new costume. My mom had to rent out 3 rooms to strangers after the divorce just to make ends meet so I ended up living with these strangers and calling them "uncle" or "auntie". I had no idea what was going on at the time. I couldn't participate in hot lunch every Thursday at school because we didn't have the money, and since I went to a private school, everyone else always bought 2 or 3 hot dogs/pizza slices/hamburgers for hot lunch. I remember crying as my grandma scrounged around for change in one of our renter's room just so I could have $2.50 for hot lunch the next day. As a Catholic and a morally good person, I didn't know what to think at that time! Was it right for her to "steal" money like that, even if it was just some loose change?

I'm thankful that my mom never made it known to me that we were broke, but she did make jokes about how we might have to move to the Philippines when she was laid off a few times. I'm very grateful that she didn't burden me with her financial troubles but I also wish she would have taught me how to save money since she was so good at it (she is an accountant after all). I now appreciate everything she has done to pay for my education and everything I wanted. Whenever I came home complaining about what the other kids were wearing or what the other kids' parents bought them as Christmas gifts, she never complained or got angry. She would go out and get me all the gifts she could afford and every Sunday after church, we would get McDonald's. I looked forward to Sundays all the time just to get my happy meal. I wish I could go back to those days and thank her for everything she has done for me.

When my mom got remarried when I was 9, my stepdad was just starting his career as an engineer, and he was making less than my mom. Things were still really tight and we were still pinching pennies, which is why I decided that I needed to start working when I was 14. I first started teaching hip-hop classes to kids at the local community center and then moved on to selling cell phones at T-Mobile at the mall. Without that real life work experience, I don't know how I would have turned out. I was exposed to reality and the true cost of living at minimum wage. Then, I started driving and taking care of my little brother and sister. I felt like a teenage mom and was actually mistaken for a teenage mom most of the time but it taught me a lot about responsibility and the love I felt for them is something that motivated me.

When my dad became a captain in the Navy, this is when the lifestyle inflation began. We started going on trips and my parents bought me a new car (not an expensive one, just a Toyota Corolla, but it was still brand new!) when I was 16 and they purchased a new 5-bedroom house, and also started renting out our previous 2 bedroom townhouse. My dad bought a BMW and after my mom got into an accident with our old van, my dad bought her a Lexus. My dad moved up in his company quickly and ended up being the predecessor to the former owner of the engineering firm, and I was so proud of him.  The happiness in his eyes as he talked made me so happy. My mom would tell me everyday that she couldn't believe how her life turned out. She looks at her house everyday and tells herself how thankful she is for everything she has been given. I am so happy that my parents worked so hard to get to where they are today, and I can only hope that I can follow in their footsteps.

What troubles me is that sometimes my BF and I try to compare ourselves to where my parents and his parents are at currently. We have to remember that everyone starts off at the bottom and has to work their way to whatever goal they are trying to achieve. We can't just skip ahead without putting the time in to be where they are at today. It's hard when your parents automatically assume that you should be making 6 figures right when you get out of college, but that's life and we have to make do with what we can afford right now. We are both grateful to have jobs and I think that's what is important. At this point, I have accepted that I may not even get to the lifestyle my parents are living, and I'm okay with that. I just want to be able to provide for my future family like my mom did, because I know I appreciated everything even before we were able to afford a lot of things and live comfortably.

3.23.2012

When Being Scared Saves Me Money

I like lists so if you read my blog often, I use a lot of bullet points and I make a lot of lists. Here's another one to add to my list of lists. I just used the word "list" four times in two sentences... oops, well, it's Friday.

I was thinking that there are a lot of things I am afraid of. Sometimes I want to cower in a corner and cover my eyes, and hide under a blanket. Is that bad? Could be. But honestly, if you look for the positive in it, having fears and being afraid actually leads to great consequences like SAVING MONEY! Booyah.

So the next time you see something like this image on Pinterest, fret not...

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When Being Scared Saves Me Money

  • I'm scared of heights, which means I don't have to spend money on:
    • Skydiving - Never!
    • Bungee jumping - Scary!
    • Rollercoasters - Okay I used to LOVE rollercoasters but I'm over that phase. I'm scared of them.
    • Hot air balloons - I don't fall for those Groupons for hot air balloon rides. Pass.
    • Ziplining - Sliding down a zipline? No thanks!
    • Paragliding - Relying on a parachute? Not for me!
    • Hanggliding - You get the point.
  • Haunted Houses: I admit that I do like haunted houses, but I am terrified of them. I went with my friend once to those haunted houses during Halloween, and I closed my eyes the entire time I walked through it. I held onto her and just screamed with my eyes closed. I think I could have done that without paying $20.
  • I'm Claustrophobic: I'm so claustrophobic it's not even funny. If my BF hugs me too tight I have to push him off. I hate airplane seats (unless I'm in first class). I also hate the middle seat of a car's backseat. This means I don't spend money on concerts or anywhere where there's going to be a crapload of people.
  • The Dark: Yes I'm 24 and I'm afraid of the dark. I have tiny cataracts so my optometrist suggests that I avoid driving at night... see it's for my own safety. This saves me gas!
  • Eating Raw Fish (and other exotic expensive food): I don't really like sushi unless it's a California roll or shrimp tempura. That's okay with me because going out for sushi gets expensive.
  • Hot Yoga: This goes with my claustrophobia issue. I don't like feeling stuck in a room, especially in a really hot room where I can't escape. Add exercise to that and I would be having panic attacks while doing hot yoga. I do like pilates though but thankfully not hot yoga since that would be another huge expense for me.
  • Losing: I hate losing so I don't gamble or go to casinos although we have a plethora of them here. My friends and I used to go in college and I would royally suck at the penny slots and roulette, so I only like to play with fake money now.
  • Sharks: I will not scuba dive in the deep! I will snorkel though.
  • My Car Breaking Down in the Middle of Nowhere: I'm overly paranoid with my car. I check my tires all the time with my pressure checker to avoid flats, I bug my BF to change my oil every 4,000 miles, and if anything seems off, I'll be bugging him to check on it. I like to think this saves me money!
Geez, I sound like a wimp. This post should be renamed to "When Being a Wimp Saves Me Money". In all good fun, this post was just to inspire you that being afraid is okay sometimes, and you don't have to leave ALL of your fears behind. We're human, we're not robots (not yet anyway).

What are you afraid of? Please tell me I'm not the only wimp here!

3.22.2012

My Gadget History & What I Paid For Them

This post will be dedicated to my love for gadgets. I basically gave up on trying to buy new gadgets because the next year or within the next few months, there's something "newer and better" that has come out that I "have to have" or they tend to break. I have never waited in a line that circled the block, never bought anything on or near the release date and I have never bought anything at full price, besides my first (and current) smartphone. I usually wait until all of the hype dies down and I wait until people get tired of theirs or move on to the next new gadget, and I end up with gadgets in like new condition.

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My Gadget History and How Much I Paid for Them!

iPod 1st Generation: Remember that huge bulky thing? It was so cool. I remember buying this on eBay after it was out for awhile. Needless to say, it stopped working after a year or so, and by then there was a new iPod out so that was over $100 down the drain.

iPod 2nd Gen: This was a hot pink one, and I got this one as a gift so I didn't pay for it!

Blackberry Pearl: This was the first phone that I purchased on my own but NOT at full price. I had T-Mobile at the time and I was working at a law firm in college. My BF had a black blackberry pearl and I wanted to match so I purchased the white one off of eBay for only $90. It had some scratches but that phone lasted me for years!

iPod Touch 1st Gen: Again, I bought this one off of eBay too and definitely not at full price. I believe it was for less than $100 and in like new condition. I couldn't even tell that it was used. I loved this thing, and used it for many years! I still have it today but I don't use it as much.

Macbook: My parents bought this laptop for me for my 21st birthday since my 4-year old Dell laptop was dying. Best gift ever! I still use it until this day and it has given me zero problems. Oh, also my friend Patty works for Apple and she let me use her employee discount that year since she did not need anything new (THANKS PATTY!) :)

iPad 1st Gen 16gb wi-fi: I got sucked into the marketing for this one and ended up ordering one online on the first day. I paid full price for the 16gb wi-fi. When I got it, I regretted it immediately and returned it.

HTC EVO 4G: I think this was the only gadget I bought at full price. I finally was ready to give in to the smartphone craze (I just got this in summer of 2010) so everyone had iPhones already. I was wanting an iphone but with Sprint's unlimited data plan, I decided to get it. I love my phone! Kinda bulky but worth the $199 I paid for it. I plan to use this until it breaks. Btw, it did break within the first few months but I went to a Sprint store and they traded it for a new one since I had just bought it.

PS3 1st Gen 80gb: The BF and I bought a PS3 off of Craigslist from the sweetest teenage boy. He put stickers all over it, but it worked perfectly. We paid $240 for the PS3 plus a myriad of games (14 games), 2 controllers, and a guitar for guitar hero. Everything was probably worth over $500. However, the PS3 burned out just last weekend, and BF paid $137 for a new PS3 160gb Slim (if we trade our broken one in) and also persuaded the manager through customer service to give us a $60 credit through PSN. Worth it? Yes!

Samsung 51" Plasma HDTV: The BF and I bought this on Black Friday last year. We got it for the $500 price ONLINE and did not have to wait in line! We got really really lucky!

iPad 2nd Gen 16gb wi-fi & 3G: I actually got this just a few months ago for my birthday. I originally wanted to get a Kindle or Nook but my mom has an iPad and she would not let me get anything but the iPad. She even said she would pay for however much the difference was between a Kindle Fire and an iPad. So I scoured Craigslist and I got one in new condition - a white 16gb with wi-fi and 3G for $520. Definitely paid less than retail and my mom gave me half as my birthday gift.

So if you read through my whole list, I'm not as big of a gadget junkie as I thought I was. Also, I never buy electronics or gadgets for full price (besides my phone, which was worth it to me but let's not count that).

My tips for buying used or second-hand gadgets/electronics:
  • Scour Craigslist and eBay. Search all the time and use keywords.
  • The best times to buy are after Christmas. Well, for me at least. People are selling lots of like new items.
  • Do not get into a bidding war and end up paying more than you wanted. Set your max bid in your head and stick to your guns.
  • Bring someone with you if you are going to meet someone from Craigslist.
  • Ask lots and lots of questions such as when the item was purchased, how old it is, any scratches, anything wrong with the item, what does it come with, where did they buy it, do they accept returns or exchanges, are they willing to meet at an Apple store (or whatever store such as Sony/Best Buy) to do the exchange?
  • Once you get the item, make sure it works! If it doesn't request your money back. Make sure the listing does not say broken or parts for sale.
  • Sleep on it. Do not impulsively buy anything, especially second-hand or used. There will always be another good deal so don't fret.

Do any of you buy gadgets at full price? Or do you buy second-hand?

3.21.2012

Relationship Chronicles: Planning for the Future (With Debt)

BF and I were talking about our finances....when are we not? If you missed my last relationship chronicles post - here it is!

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It's been awhile but we still talk about finances and our future almost everyday. At one point though, you have to step back and just calm down and stop letting the stress rule your feelings and life. It's come to the point where we are getting frustrated because we are in limbo and we don't know what will happen next. It's scary.

Put It All Out There

As you all know I'm planning (hoping) to go to law school. Right now it looks like I won't be starting until Fall 2013. I'm hoping for some merit scholarship money but if not, then need-based aid. It's stressful because we are not married and so we have to treat our finances separately (but combined in our minds).

You guys also know that we are trying to buy a condo together and so we will be adding more debt to his school loan debt, and then when I start law school, we'll be adding more debt. It's pretty scary to think of how much debt we will be swimming in, but together we discuss this and know that we have to work with each other to figure out the best way to approach this.

BF has a lot of school loan debt right now which he is trying to pay off and also trying to lower his income by trying to max out his roth IRA, 401k and make use of other tax deductions so that his monthly payments won't be astronomical. The IBR program says that if you don't pay it off the school loan within 25 years (I think) then the loan is forgiven, but you also have to show that you can't afford it each year. I'm not too familiar with it since I do not have any school loans.

He brought up the fact that we should not get married before I go to law school so that I can qualify for need-based aid. I agree with this so that's not a big issue. But we also have to think of the future when we will get married, and we still have to show that our combined income is still low enough so that the monthly payments for his loans won't be $1,300/month. That's more than our potential mortgage payment and that doesn't include my monthly payment for my future school loans. I'm crying inside.

Listen to Each Other

can't find a source from pinterest :(
He suggested that he max out all of his accounts (which would cover mine) and I pay for all the daily expenses. If I have to, I'd have to stop contributing to my 401k and roth IRA, etc. I almost died when he said this. What?! Stop saving for retirement?! Compound interest? But time is on my side! I wanted to scream and yell and fight him on it but I had to keep calm and stay composed. I don't know if this is the best plan but it was just his suggestion so that we could minimize the amount of interest we pay. I can't jump to conclusions if he was looking out for the both of us and bringing up a suggestion.

It's important to listen to your partner and make sure that you understand their intentions before blowing up, which is something I have to work on, but I'm glad I was able to stay cool and calm when he said this, although I felt myself getting angry.

My first thoughts were selfish thoughts, such as "Why does he get to save for retirement and not me?" and "Why do I have to pay for the daily expenses?", but I also remembered that we are a team and we have to work on this together. I can't just continue on my merry little way and plan my future without him because let's face it, he IS part of my future and his debt will be my debt, his money is my money and vice versa.

Formulate and Strategize

As we discussed it more, we agreed that yes, we can't make any decisions right now but we will sit down and formulate a strategy to make sure we are maximizing our money and not just paying a ton of interest while saving a lot for retirement and stocks. You have to look at the whole picture and see where you can save money the most. Money is money, and you have to make it work for you. You can't expect it to just grow on it's own while paying down debt as fast as you want (unless you have unlimited amount of funds but sadly we don't). That would of course be the best option.

Our whole perspective on this comes from the fact that we are looking at the worst possible situation. We are basing this plan off the scenario that we will stay at our current salaries with no raises and we even thought of the scenario of living on just one salary (his). It's better to think of the worst possible situation so you are ready for whatever comes your way. We want a house (but it doesn't have to be huge) and we want kids. We want them to enjoy their lives and we want them to go to college with as much help as possible from us. We want to go on vacations and we want to buy lots of property. We want to retire comfortably. As long as we are on the same page for the future, then there is no reason to get angry or frustrated. I think that was the most important part of this for me.

Sorry for the long post but it's nice to just vent about relationship financial issues. When I was talking with the BF, I remembered Erika and her husband over at Newlyweds on a Budget and how they deal with their money fights. They're a team and they inspire me, because they are so similar to us! I hope this inspires you if you are having any relationship issues relating to money.

3.20.2012

Being the Oldest: A Birth Order Analysis

*Blush* I feel embarrassed. My blogger friend Daisy posted this like yesterday. Oops. Read her take!

After reading an article on How Birth Order Affects Your Finances, I was already intrigued. I'm into analyzing the heck out of everything whether it's relating to gender, age, horoscope, birth order, whatever!

via
The article said some awesome things about firstborns that I can relate to:
  • Fierce responsibility
  • Most punctual about paying bills because they love to be seen as stable and dependable
  • They won't let financial details like payment due dates and unnecessary fees fall through the cracks
  • Phenomenally organized and keep their finances in order
  • Often have great credit scores
  • Being a perfectionist leads to burnout and giving up or setting unrealistic financial goals
I'm the oldest of 3. I have a 15-year-old brother and 12-year-old sister, and I'm 24. Yes we have the same mom and different dads but I consider my stepdad as a real father since he has raised me. And yes, my siblings think I'm ancient so there's that too. I can definitely relate to almost everything on this list. I have the dire need to prove myself to my parents and to show them that I'm not a failure. I've always been independent and have held a job since I was 15. I began by teaching hip-hop dancing classes and then moved on to various mall jobs. I now relate to everything but a few years ago, I was more of a "pay the minimum payment on the credit card and let it grow interest" type of person. I used to think credit card debt was a joke and that it was free money.


I'm sure most of you would also be categorized in the "firstborn" category rather than the middle/youngest/middle child categories below.

Middle Children:
  • Inventive, natural problem-solvers
  • Constantly moving debt around through cash advances and balance transfers
  • Secrecy - problem solving creates the need to cover up financial issues
Youngest:
  • Very social - prioritizing dinners, latte runs and trips to the mall over budgeting
  • Conditioned to rely on others
  • Problems learning how to value long-term saving over instant gratification
Only Child:
  • Seek approval from superiors and those older than them
  • Similar to firstborns - perfectionists 
  • Tries to impress people
Obviously this article is biased towards firstborns and since it's only based on one certified psychiatrist's opinions, I'd take this lightly.There are probably Barnes & Noble coupons available for books about birth order, so do your own research.

But do you think your birth order affects your financial habits? 

PS. Aren't these pictures so cute?! Click on the link to see more photography by their father. So adorable.

3.19.2012

Weekly Money Check-Up 3/19/2012

via
1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on my boyfriend's birthday gift. His bday was this past Friday. Remember how I bought my Nike Free Runs with a gift card? Well, my BF kept saying how much he loved them and I couldn't stop raving about how much I love them. He is in dire need of new running shoes so I couldn't help myself. I went to the mall last Tuesday and purchased some for him. Now we have matching shoes! I'm so excited because I've always wanted matching shoes but I could never find one that we both liked. They came out to $107 but it was so worth it for his reaction and how happy he was when he opened it. I live for that.

2. Today I am thankful for 
being part of the PF blogging community. I have never met such genuine and smart people with similar interests!

3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free thing I did last week that made me happy was.... each day I spent at the gym! I love the gym, and it's my happy place where I can escape to during my lunch. I love the vibe, the energy, the group fitness instructors, the friends I make and the classes. I know it's not free but my membership is prepaid until this December so I'm counting it as free :) #pfworkout - haha if you're on twitter you know what this means.
4. I will consider this week a success if I study for more than 3 hours each day of the week. It's been difficult for me to study after work lately and also on the weekends. I need to get back into my 4-5 hours study time during each weekday and then 8 hours each day on the weekend.
5. If I could afford one unnecessary luxury, I would buy my own private plane and my pilot's license so I could fly back and forth to the bay area at any time. In a perfect world, I'd get to see my family every weekend. It's only a 1-hour flight away but an 8 hour drive.

3.17.2012

Updates, Changes and New Blogs!

Happy Saturday and Happy St. Paddy's Day! For all of you drinking away today, please enjoy yourself since I have to stay in and study this weekend (at least it's raining here so it doesn't make it too painful for me) but if you are drinking, please stay safe and don't drink and drive!

I was going to write a really long post about an argument the BF and I had today...well it was actually a really long and drawn out discussion of how we were complaining about our future, but I'll save that for later. It wasn't really an argument, just us voicing our concerns and frustrations of all the sacrifices we are trying to make to get to where we want to be. I'm sure all relationships go through that!

So this post is going to be really random but that's ok cuz that describes my personality perfectly!

1. I changed my twitter username to shopping2saving! It used to be imashoewhore (obviously pre-blog days) so I switched it up so everyone can add me. I still protect my tweets but if you're a PF blogger I will definitely add you. So please add me, I love tweeting and getting to know the PF blogging community through it...it's so easy to respond and chat!

2. I added a new tab up on top titled "My Fave Posts". I thought it would be easier for newer readers to check out just in case you are interested. It takes some time to dig through my rants and random posts about studying to get to some of the good stuff!

3. I'm jealous of all the new bloggers (and older ones) joining in on the Yakezie challenge. Just like volunteering right now, I don't think I can commit to joining. You know when you tell yourself you "have" to do something and then it never happens? I'm scared that's what will happen if I join. But maybe in July. At that point I will have no excuses! :)

4. I've found so many cool new PF blogs lately, I want to share them with you! I actually added them all to my blogroll, but I'm constantly finding new ones... that blogroll is about to explode! Check out these newer (or just new to me!) PF bloggers:

Young Professional Finances
Frugal Fries
Femme Frugality
In Budgets We Trust
Bog of Debt
Broke Elizabeth
Low Net Worth Individual
Money for Boba
Cents and Nonsense
Twenty Something Money
Petite Artiste
Financially Fabulous

5. I have been freezing my greek yogurt (with honey mixed in) and it is sooooo good! Tastes exactly like how gelato should taste like, without the crazy price and the tiny scoop they give you. I'm going to go back to the grocery store since I already finished all of my strawberries and add those in to make a strawberry greek yogurt gelato. Try it! You don't even need an ice cream maker :)

6. I found this really cool Pinterest board and literally EVERYTHING on this woman's "words" board had me falling off of my chair laughing. I just love how being on Pinterest can make you feel so silly and happy. I can't find sources for any of the pics besides the first one. And I thought Pinterest was supposed to source things for you?! Weird...

via

i was literally dying of laughter when i read this.

hahahaha this was hilarious.
i am sooooo that 1%!
Hope you enjoyed this post and hope you are enjoying your weekend!

3.16.2012

How Spring Makes Us (Me?) Spend More

Before I begin this post, I wrote a guest post over at Michelle's blog - Making Sense of Cents. Check it out! It's one of my favorite topics to talk about - motivation and money psychology

Oh hello Spring! So nice of you to finally show up this week. I have been waiting for you all winter, although it only rained a handful of times here in San Diego...but that's ok!

Has anyone else noticed that Spring makes us spend more? I really think in my case it does. How you ask? See below.

1. Sunshine: I love the sun. It plays a huge role in my mood because if it's shining on my face when I wake up, it's an automatic alarm clock and it makes me want to get out of bed and enjoy the nice weather. When there is no sun and it's gloomy and overcast, I wake up feeling out of my element and really lazy. All I want to do is lay in the warm blankets. So sunshine makes me get out of bed and it makes me want to do more = higher chance of spending if I'm out of the house!

via pinterest. no original source :(
2. Summer: When Spring rolls around, it's a constant reminder that Summer is happily on its way here. I love summer which means Spring gets me excited for my favorite season. Usually when I think of summer I want to get beach ready which means more working out..which means buying workout gear. I have been on the look out for compression sleeves for my calves since I run a lot and get shin splints. Also I am really into cute workout clothes!

via
3. Longer Days: 7pm and it's still sunny? Let's go do something! I don't know about you but when it was 7pm and dark, I was already getting settled in my PJs and armed to surf the net or watch TV or study until it was time to go to sleep. 7pm used to mean 3 more hours until bedtime but now that the sun's still out at 7pm it's easier to want to go out...again, out of the house = higher chance of spending whether it's grabbing a quick cup of fro-yo or boba or jamba juice.

4. New Clothes: As seasons change, I look at my closet each time and think to myself..I have way too many sweaters and pants. I need shorts! I need bright happy colors! I need bathing suits! I need sandals! This season I will not let myself fall into that trap again. I'm going to use all of my summery clothes that have been hanging untouched. If you're like me, new seasons (especially Spring) could trigger this feeling...and it's not a good one. At least keep an eye out for sales, coupons, or promo codes for when the need gets to be too much.

5. More Energy: This goes in hand with #3, but I have more energy in Spring. In Fall and Winter, I get into a productive mood and become addicted to work, but when it's Spring I'm feeling generally more happy and I want to do more. Volunteer? Yes! Go hiking? Yes! Go to the gym? Yes! Instead of feeling sluggish and wanting to stay in when it's raining, I get the urge to do more stuff and actually spend more.

6. Spring Cleaning: With Spring comes Spring cleaning. My family and I used to overhaul our old clothes, vacuum and dust every tiny crevice and then rearrange furniture. Spring is a time for a new beginning and what better way to do so than to clean house? I just cleaned my closet last weekend and it was crazy. It took me hours but now it's organized and nice to look at, and I can actually see all of my clothes! But with spring cleaning I bought new drawers for organization and usually with cleaning/organizing/rearranging, you end up buying furniture or organization stuff. Ikea anyone?

via
7. Vacation Planning: As I mentioned before, Spring means summer is looming near. Summer means vacation time! Woohoo! I actually love vacation planning but this also means taking a good look at your budget, and finally that travel fund you've been throwing money at for awhile will be used to buy those plane tickets for that tropical destination. With vacations of any sort, I'm sure you all go shopping in preparation for these trips, whether it's for clothes, tickets (shows? amusement parks?), or whatever you plan to bring or enjoy.

Does Spring make anyone else spend more? Or am I the only oddball in this room?

3.15.2012

Interview with Rafiki of Upendilife!

Hey everyone! Hope you are all having a fabulous week so far. Today I have a special treat which I have been meaning to share. Rafiki is a personal finance blogger from Barbados and reading about how different it is over there compared to the US and Canada amazes me. What's great about Rafiki is that he is always very thoughtful and compassionate, and you can always tell he is willing to share his knowledge with us in such a genuine way. Check out his blog if you haven't already! 
Where were you born and raised?
On a little island in the Caribbean known as Barbados.

How old are you and how did you get into the industry you're in?
I'm 21, will be 22 in June. I got into my current industry by applying. I had quit my first job as a debt collector because of some serious problems with the company and the job itself. I was on the hunt for a job again so I just started sending out applications to various companies and to advertisements I saw in the newspaper. My current company is the first one to offer me a job and I took it. It's been almost 2 years now I've been there and my time for staying has come to an end. I had only plan to remain until I figure out what it is I wanted to do in life and I think I am close but current situations have sped up my need to leave.
 
Why did you start your blog?
One part loneliness, one part inspiration. P was gone for the second semester this time around and I had a lot of free time on my hands and nothing much to do. I was reading just a handful of PF blogs at the time, and I was inspired to try my hand at it. I wanted to track my net worth with one of those cool tracking bars and I thought I had some opinions and experiences worth sharing with the world. March will make a year I've been at it, the blog has become a little more personal and a little less finance but I hope to have it more balanced soon once again.
 
Who is your role model?
I've have never really picked out a role model for my life. I usually just admire certain characteristics of lots of different people's lives and I pick out the ones I would like to emulate. If I had to choose a role model from now until I am 30, it would be you(Erika) or Ninja from Punch Debt In The Face. I really admire younger couples happily building their lives together. I can't see myself without P so I really look up to people like you and I try and take whatever advice I can to make sure that P and I can be happy together for a long time to come. If I had to pick someone who's life I would love to emulate post 30, it would have to be Trent of the simple dollar, he has the life I would like my future to be like, a loving and supportive wife, children, an extremely flexible job allows him to spend time with his children and in a good financial position. He is also working his dream job. Post 30, that is where I want to be.
 
What ignited your passion for managing your finances?
I remember a guy at my old job was telling me about saving my money on the bank and gaining interest on it. Pair that with a deep sense of wanting to make P happy and to take care of her for the rest of my life. Follow that up with a Google search and what you have is an explosion of passion not just passion being ignited.
 
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Outside of blogging, I like to spend my spare time doing anything with P. Outside of that, I like hanging out with friends. When I'm not doing either of those, one of my favourite pass times is playing video games. Other things I enjoy doing are reading, whether it be a story or just research on things I am interested in. I like exploring new places and once P is back I plan to do this more regular. I also like playing with new tech but access to new tech is limited so this one is rare. Lastly, if I've spent a lot of time during any given day with people for too long, I like to relax alone and settle my mind in peace and quiet.
What is your biggest financial regret?
I don't really have any financial regrets. If I was forced to choose one I would have to go with not saving any money throughout my school life. Another possible one is owning such an expensive car. It would have been much nicer if I got one at half the price but in the end I don't really regret any of my choices so far.
 
What is your most memorable financial experience?
Opening a joint account with P. Following that, reaching my first $1000 in savings in any account period. My first $1000 came in the form of our emergency fund that I saved in the joint account with P. It got there just by putting $20 a week in it. It took about a full year but it's pretty awesome to get there.
What would you never spend money on?
This is a tough one, I have absolutely no idea. They are things in life that I generally do not want for myself and things that I don't ever see myself buying but to say that I would never spend money on something in particular might be going a tad too far, if something was supposed to change and I found myself in need of it or it was something that I truly wanted, I wouldn't mind paying for it. The amount I am willing to spend will have a cap but I would still be willing to spend up to that amount.
 
Do you have any financial advice you'd like to share?
Money is a renewable resource. If you lose some money, don’t sweat it. You can always make more. However, if you spend valuable time stressing over money, or lost opportunity, you’ll never get that time back. Time is more valuable than money - Tina Su
Fun questions:

What is your favorite food?
I'm actually going to go with spaghetti and meatballs with a nice sauce.
Where do you like to shop?
Amazon. Being from Barbados, my currency is $2 bds to $1 us. Usually when stuff gets down here to be sold, instead of being 2 times the US price, after taxes, duties and what I consider to be an unfair mark up, things end up costing 3 times the amount, even 4 to 5 times the amount sometimes. It's almost always cheaper for me to order whatever I want from online and then just ship it here internationally. Amazon is my favourite because it is like a mega store and I trust them compared to smaller sites on the internet or sites like eBay where it can be easy to get tricked. Their customer service for me has been outstanding so far as well.
 
What is your dream job?
I haven't quite narrowed my dream job down to a specific as yet. I would like to be able to share knowledge in some form or fashion so that I may help people. This can range from becoming a teacher, becoming an advisor, writing a book or working at a help desk, who knows, so long as I am able to help people and share my opinion. Teaching environments are also learning environments which is why I enjoy them even more, I love to learn new things and get challenged by people's opinions.
What is your living situation like?
 Currently I live at home with my mom and my little sis. It's not my preferred situation but it works for now and it saves me some serious money. I do intend to tackle the world on my own before 25(actually I plan to tackle it with P). I did tell my mom though, that if at 25 and I am still living at home to please kick me out. I believe every young adult should go out and try to live life on their own, even if you fail and end up moving back home at least you got the experience. I'm actually planning and hoping to be out officially by 2014, the delay is because P and I have some stuff to work out. I'll be 24 then.
 
Where and how did you and P meet?
 Wouldn't you like to know? I've actually known of P for quite a long time. We attended the same secondary school(high school) but she was a year under me. Obviously I wasn't paying her any mind but she was making a name for herself at school(a positive one). She eventually caught up to me in her 4th year and we became acquaintances more so than friends around this time. It's not about until almost 4 years after near the end of college(we attended the same college as well) that we became actual friends. We actually started a conversation through instant messaging on the computer because one of us realized the other watches One Piece. Infatuation grew and as destiny would play out; our social groups intertwined a lot more. Being around her I grew to like her more and more and destiny was actually written in stone one night when we were at a graveyard. We were sitting talking and she saw two shooting stars that night(I didn't see them). She made a wish and it has obviously come through.

3.14.2012

Thoughts on Volunteering

I've always been an active volunteer throughout junior high, high school and college. I've volunteered across a wide spectrum of organizations and causes specifically a mental health facility, a senior living community, food drives for the homeless, Habitat for Humanity, tutoring children at a family shelter, painting and rebuilding homeless shelters, and even starting an after school arts and crafts program at an American Indian Education Center. Throughout all of these experiences my eyes have been opened to reality and how important it is to help others.

Since I've graduated and began my career, my participation in volunteer work has been abysmally non-existent. After watching the KONY 2012 documentary yesterday, I realized that I still have that passion to help. I've been so focused on my career, my future, my health and my finances that it was so easy to lose sight of something that used to play a major role in my life. At first I was really impressed with the KONY campaign but after doing more research, the company is not something that I agree with. I do not agree with intervening by using military response. Since Kony uses child soldiers, this would result in more violence against these abducted children. Anyway I have a lot of thoughts about it, so if you want to discuss it with me you can email me but I won't talk about it on here. I like the intentions of Invisible Children but I would rather volunteer for an organization whose work/mission is something that I wholeheartedly agree with.

This morning I found a really cool website called VolunteerMatch.com where you can browse volunteer organizations and some people even leave reviews if they worked for the org before. After reading up about a lot of orgs and weeding through other jobs like volunteering at the local library, I finally found the International Rescue Committee (IRC).


I have been reading about their mission, their work, how they began and what they do and I agree with every last bit of their philosophy. The IRC responds to the worst humanitarian crises in the world and helps refugees survive and rebuild their lives. There are so many ways to help these refugees such as helping them find jobs, homes, learning English, and rehabilitation. I would love to volunteer in any aspect.

When finding a volunteer organization I believe it is truly important to know where the money they raise is being spent. If you look at their public financials, almost everything goes towards the programs they execute and only 5% goes towards administration which is amazing to say the least. Sometimes there are travel promo codes available to save on humanitarian transportation.


I have a very addictive and extreme personality so of course I want to get started right away and sign up for an orientation this month, but I know I should be studying for the LSAT. Half of me is telling me that I should put my time into this org when I am finished (by June 11th) but it is just so exciting to want to be part of something that you truly believe in. Finding a cause that speaks to you is something that should be part of everyone's lives whether on a small scale or not. I'm going to think about this more and see if I can handle it right now but I am definitely going to support this cause by volunteering now or in June.

Does anyone else have any volunteer organizations they advocate or participate in? I'd love to hear about it!
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