Dec 27, 2009

Some random encouragement for the new year :-)

I’ve been doing Jillian’s 30 day shred workout videos lately, and I started thinking about something. You know how when you do a workout video the host is always so crazy upbeat and positive, always throwing encouragement your way? The same stuff they say can work well in “real life,” too. When life gets absolutely shitty, almost everyone has thoughts of giving up. “I can’t do this, I can’t take it anymore” (...basically the same thoughts I have while Jillian is kicking my butt every morning).

I mean, life is infinitely harder than any workout video, and most of the time we want to take the easy way out instead of pushing ourselves. So many people end up living out a life which they don’t love or don’t want, simply because that’s the path they think they are on. But think about it—- the same motivation you apply to get through a tough workout can help you on a larger scale. Being your own cheerleader can help you to stay determined in your life choices and not give up when something seems impossible. This is true everything, but especially true for finances too! If you have a bad day or week where spending is pretty intense, don’t be tempted to throw in the towel or get too discouraged! Remember your plans and remember how good it feels to pay down debt or watch your savings grow. Since we don’t have life coaches, we have to give ourselves (and each other) the encouragement. :-) So if anyone is feeling low, stressed, or overwhelmed, remember to push through, be strong, and believe that you can do it!

Dec 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Hi all, just wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas! We just finished our little shindig with the fam. It was a successful year as far as presents go- I think everyone liked what I got them... although we did have a big of a problem with my mom's gift. She bought the exact same Wii game for my dad that I bought for her! But it's ok, it made everyone laugh and we can always exchange it for something else. My parents got me a new ipod nano, which I'm totally in love with. It's green and shiny and cute and takes videos! I can't wait to play around with it more once it's done charging. My mom also bought me the new Burt's Bees acne line, since my visit to the dermatologist's office wasn't so successful the other day ($215 for a tube of cream-- no way I can afford that!). I seriously hope it works. Everything else was mostly clothes and books, which are also needed and loved. And tomorrow it's off to my uncle's house for more presents and food! Hope your holidays are going well too!

Dec 10, 2009


I got my car insurance bill for Geico today, and my premium went UP, not down like it usually does-- even though I haven't gotten pulled over or a ticket or anything! I called them today and they said that it was because the town where I live has become a greater risk area. I'm not quite sure if that is complete bullshit or not, but I just have this awful feeling that they completely dicked me over and I did nothing but accept it. Sometimes I get so mad at myself when talking to these people on the phone for not being pushier. I call and it usually doesn't accomplish anything-- actually come to think of it, I've mad three similar phone calls to other people in the past few days and they didn't change anything. I'm feeling kind of down now, just because I hate feeling like I am a pushover...

Dec 9, 2009

Roommate Drama!!

Last Friday we got our lease renewal letters in the mail, and on Saturday morning my roommate came to talk to me about it. She decided she wants her boyfriend to move in here, which basically means I'm out. I wasn't mad or anything, even though I love this apartment and would like to stay here, because honestly-- I saw it coming. He practically lives with us now! It's just annoying to have to find a new place and move and stuff, and I was kind of hoping they'd move out and find their own new place together.

So anyway, cut to Monday-- EVERYONE in the department is talking about us. I guess she went running her mouth off to everyone about how mad I was at her (I only told the boy and my best friend here), and everyone else was mad at her for "kicking me out without a legal right to do so." Seriously, people were calling me over and telling me how I'm such a pushover and I should fight her for the apartment and all this crap, and she came home crying last night because people were saying mean things about her. I mean, really??? It's not worth it to make enemies over an apartment! Plus I absolutely hate drama of any kind and always stay out of it, but now somehow I'm stuck in the middle of the drama of the semester!!!! Argh!

Nov 30, 2009

Checks in the Mail = Love

When I came back from Thanksgiving break, it was like a carnival in my mailbox! I finally received my reimbursement check from my eye insurance, and I also had a check waiting from Add that money into what I got today for returning the Zeno I bought (such a waste of money ugh), and I made a $100 deposit to my EF today!! I know it's not a whole lot, but I'm desperate for all I can get at this point. I updated my sidebars to reflect my new money stuff. (On a side note, how much of a bummer is it that I've only paid 3 car payments and have paid of 5% of my loan already, while I've been paying off my student loan for 2 years now and have only paid off 10%?? Ugh.)

Nov 25, 2009

I'm getting so excited for Christmas!

I usually hate all the Christmas hype starting before Thanksgiving, but for some reason I am getting super excited about Christmas this year! I was kind of a freak this year and bought most of my presents in the summer at various craft fairs and festivals. So far I got presents for my sister, brother, two best friends, and a birthday + christmas gift for the boyfriend (his bday is Christmas eve). I already wrapped them too-- don't judge! :-P But anyway I hardly have any more presents to buy. Here is a short list of who I still have left to buy for and some ideas about what to get them:

Dad-- Texas Roadhouse gift card $40 (his favorite restaurant-he's mega obsessed)
Mom-- new walking shoes or a Wii game $40-50 (she wants Sports Resort or Boom Blox)
Grandma-- Susan Boyle's new cd + something else (Do you guys have any good ideas??) $40-50
Roommate-- kitchen gadgets or nice stationary $10-15

Nov 10, 2009

First day at the lab

Today was the first day of my food study, and I made $15. :-) I don't get paid until the very end of the study, which will be in early December. It'll be nice to get it then though, because then I'll have $75 to use for Christmas presents! The food was pretty good, not stellar or anything, but definitely good enough. You should see the portion sizes they give out though- I'm not sure anyone could eat that much food. I got two whole trays full of stuff to eat, thank goodness I don't have to eat everything!

I have a syntax test tomorrow, and I can't even make myself care about it. I think I studied enough, but I did not study well. I am basically being irresponsible and playing around on the internet instead of doing any work (as you can see). I must say, Facebook aps are wonderful in these situations- I'm completely addicted to Restaurant City...

Nov 5, 2009

Sometimes I love grad school (and those times usually involve free money)

I submitted my NSF grant proposal today. When they told me about the grant last year, I was totally meh about it. For some reason I didn't want to do it, even though it's about $30,000 a year for three years and I wouldn't have to teach at all. Call me crazy, right? But this year I've been working on it for the last 2 months, and I finally submitted it today (right under the deadline)! I'm not really sure if I'll win, since it's a national competition and I'll be competing against linguists from freaking MIT, but it was a good learning experience for future grant writing. AND! (possibly the most important part), our graduate school gives you a free THOUSAND DOLLARS just for applying. I am nervous it won't actually happen, but hopefully that paperwork all goes through alright, and soon I'll be getting my moneyyyyyyyyy.

PS- They picked me for the study! 3 free meals a day on Tuesdays and 75 bucks, here I come!

Nov 3, 2009

Cool Food Study

Remember how I posted once about how much I love getting paid for experiments? Seriously, one of the best parts about going to a big research school. Today I signed up to do a food study, and it seems really sweet. All I have to do is go to the lab once a week for all three meals and I get paid $75! I mean, really?! I love food, I love money, how is this a bad thing? Plus, it'll almost be like I'm getting paid more than that since I won't have to buy my own food. Today I went in to taste-test some of the stuff, and it seemed pretty normal (and really tasty!). I also filled out a big pamphlet about my eating habits and attitudes, so they'll call me tomorrow to let me know if I'm in. I'm a bit nervous they won't take me though, because even though I think my eating habits are perfectly normal, sometimes other people don't seem to think so. But I guess we'll see, I'm keeping my fingers crossed!! ($75 wow!)

Oct 31, 2009

I absolutely <3 Halloween

Halloween is my favorite holiday out of the whole year, even better than my birthday and Christmas. I love the horror movies, the candy, and seeing everyone's costumes. This Halloween should be good, even though I didn't buy a real costume this year. I am going as a peacock, and I only had to buy some peacock feathers for $10. I already have a shirt with peacock feathers on it, feather earrings, and teal eyeshadow and shoes to wear, so the feathers for decoration were all I needed to complete the costume. It should be awesome, I've always wanted to go as a peacock sometime and now I can!

Another cool thing is that my little sister is coming up to visit for a Halloween party with my friends tonight. She should be here in an hour or so, then we are going to Cici's Pizza for dinner and then getting ready the rest of the night. I hope this party is really fun, because I stayed in last night instead of going out. It should be though, I am really excited for it.

Happy Halloween everyone!!

I passed!

I passed candidacy!! I am now a PhD. Candidate... boo yah!! The exam went really well, I wasn't too terribly stressed and once we got the ball rolling and they started asking me questions about my work, I settled in and felt really good about it. PLus they only deliberated for about 3 mins or so before letting me know I passed, so I think that means all three of them agreed that I did well. :-) I'm super proud of myself, and I think my parents are too, if the $100 check I just got in the mail is any indication!!!

Oct 27, 2009


Well folks, tomorrow is the big day... the moment of truth. I have my candidacy exam, which basically means they will review my dissertation proposal and tell me whether I can continue on to the PhD., or if I have to leave with a Master's and go home. It doesn't seem to be too difficult to pass, because it's basically the earliest step of working on your dissertation, but I am still nervous. One of the guys who took it last year failed and left, so it does happen. I am trying to relax tonight though, going over my presentation and details of my proposal only a few times so I don't over-stress. This would all be so much easier if I didn't also have a cold/the flu at the same time!! Oy. Well, I'll let you all know how it goes tomorrow!

Oct 21, 2009

FINALLY cancelled my Sears Card

So I bit the bullet and finally got rid of my Sears card. It was the first "real" credit card I ever got, but I really just wasn't happy with it. I feel like they played games, always changing the due dates and then charging super high late fees. I haven't been using it for the last few years except maybe a small purchase once a year. So today was the day I decided to cancel. I'm most likely not going to need credit for the next few years... just bought my new car, DEFINITELY not going to buy a house, and I have four more guaranteed years of funding at school. So I feel like now was a good time to cancel the card, in case my credit score does take a hit. But overall I'm happy, because now my credit card count has gone down to 3, which is a much better number for someone my age.

Oct 20, 2009

Going to Minneso:ta! (sorry linguistics joke)

I just bought a plane ticket for Minnesota! The boyfriend is originally from there, and he invited me to come out and visit over New Years. When the semester's over, he's going to stay at my house for a bit before I take him to the airport, then I'll join him in MN on the 30th and stay for a week. I'm soooo excited to meet all his family, especially his little brothers, who are about 14 an 16 and sound like a lot of fun. Plus I'll meet all his friends at the New Years party. :-) I'm mildly nervous about the trip, but mostly just because it's going to be ridiculously freaking cold there. Thank God I bought good snow boots at the mall this weekend! Phew.

Cost-wise, the ticket was really cheap- only $229. Basically, it's a bargain... definitely the cheapest plane ticket I've ever bought (or boughten in MN speak- gotta start practicing :-P)!

Oct 15, 2009

Snow. Blah.

First off, I'd like to mention that it's snowing. IN OCTOBER. I think this is completely unacceptable... I can only imagine how bad this winter will be if we have our first snow already. We apparently broke a State College record even for the earliest snowfall... one that's been in place since 1901! Oy.

Speaking of winter, I'm going to need to shell out some precious cash and buy some snowboots. I don't own a single pair of waterproof shoes, and unfortunately the closest thing I have are leather boots with heels. I made due with those last year, but considering I'll probably be living here for the next four years, I figure I should make the investment. Does anyone know of some good but (very) inexpensive brands of snowboots?

Oct 7, 2009

Boyfriends are Expensive!!

I know that this is common knowledge to probably everyone, but it's been awhile since I've actually had a steady boyfriend, so just bear with me... having a boyfriend is expensive!!! We have been doing nothing but spending money the last few weeks-- going out for coffee (hot chocolate in my case), going out for ice cream, going out for dinner, going out for breakfast, etc. It's getting ridiculous-- I certainly can't keep this up much longer. Both because of money issues and because I am going to get fat! To be fair, we do spend a lot of our time hanging out at home, but the problem is that we also work together in the department (I know, I know, might not be the best idea) so it's always tempting to take a break and go out for lunch or some snacks. I can't keep acting like a high-roller though, so I'm definitely going to have to cut back a bit. I'll let him down gently of course... haha.

Sep 28, 2009

End of September Ramblings

Man I am getting horrible at keeping up with this thing! It's not that I'm super duper busy or anything, it just seems that any free time I have is sucked up by hanging out with friends, reading for classes, or working on my candidacy proposal. But candidacy will be over in a few weeks, so maybe I'll have more free time then. After I turn in that paper that's due mid-semester... oy.

Money-wise, things are going alright. I am already doing so much better staying within my budget than I did last year. And I would have been exactly on budget for September except I bought three semi-expensive tickets -- the football game vs. Akron, Cirque du Soleil and Avenue Q. Each ticket was only around $30 though, so it could have been a lot worse! I'm not gonna keep it up though, so luckily there are no other shows coming up that I am dying to see. This might be it for the semester, unfortunately it all got piled up at once.

Sep 11, 2009

So I'm back

Hey guys, sorry I seem to have dropped off the face of the planet!! I really don't know why I haven't updated or anything. Maybe a combination of lacking inspiration and being busy settling in to the semester. Here is an update of sorts of what happened since the last time I wrote:

1. LOVE my car. LOVE LOVE LOVE it. I am so glad I bought it, even if the bills will start coming in soon. The gas mileage is amazing! And it's soooo fun to drive. :-)

2. Strangely enough, I also love my students. They are so on top of things and so into the class activities we do, which is super strange. Not quite sure how that happened, but we'll see if it changes later in the semester. And it's amazing only teaching one section as opposed to two.

3. My kitten died. I had to go home last weekend because she was so sick and we had to put her down. She was only two, which is super shitty and unfair (and apparently I can't seem to talk about it without sounding like a spoiled teenager).

4. On the upside, I may or may not have a romantic interest... finally! We'll see where that goes.

5. I went to the first Penn State game of the season! My ticket cost only $36 online, which was completely bitchin' because all of my other friends paid about $70 on theirs. :-)

6. I dropped $500 on new glasses and contacts. This one caused me to stress out like crazy about money for awhile. I do get some reimbursements from my insurance and also a rebate for the contacts, so it will be nice to get those. But still, that sum is huge! The only reason I needed to get both was because my eye doctor found that my prescription (for apparently my whole life??) was WAY too strong. She dropped me like 2 points, and I didn't want to stress my eyes by switching between the strong glasses and the low contacts all the time.

7. I'm currently sick. Sick sick sick. Maybe it's the swine flu?? haha...

Aug 21, 2009


Ok ok, I feel like some of you might kill me for this, but I took the plunge. Today I bought a new, black Toyota Yaris! It’s got everything I wanted in a car- air conditioning, power everything, cruise control, fold-down seats and a spoiler. I took advantage of the government CARS program, and got an amazing deal on it. With all of the rebates and everything, my car payment will only be $148 a month with NO INTEREST. Hellz yeah!

Here’s the breakdown:
Car Price: $16,500
Clunker Program: -$4,500
Grad School Rebate: -$1,000
Price I Paid: $11,870 (w/ tax and tags)
Down Payment: $3,000
Financed: $8,870 for 60 months with 0% APR

For my down payment, I took all the money out of my New Car Fund, and $1,550 out of my Travel Fund. I have bonds from when I was little that are worth about $1,200 now. I was going to use them for the car, but because they get a higher interest rate (4%) than my money in the bank (1.4%), I’m just going to let them stew for a bit. I'll wait to cash them out until I need them for a trip or something.

I still have my $2,500 EF and $2,300 in the Travel Fund, so I am far from cleaned out. I feel really good about this, and it will be so nice to have a car that will be reliable and in good shape for the next few years . AND I think it’s pretty much a dream come true to get a brand new Toyota for a used-car price!! Not to mention it’s my dream car (the one that’s actually attainable of course). I can't wait to start driving it around!

Aug 18, 2009

Random stuff

I really am too tired to organize my thoughts into a cohesive blog entry today, so just bear with me.

a) I was thinking about it today, and I managed to get all the necessary items to fully furnishe and decorate my room in my new apartment for just over 120 bucks!

b) I sold my second item on Craigslist- a dresser that the old girl left here when she moved out. I got 11 emails within 3 hours... I love selling things in State College! My roommate and I are going out to dinner with the $25.

c) When I moved in, I wasn't aware I had to pay for my parking spot. It's $150 a semester... ouch! :-/ I suppose I should have asked, but at my last apartment it was free so I didn't think of it.

d)I had to buy Skype credit today for the first time in who knows how long. My cell phone is roaming inside the apartment and even outside on the street, so I can only use it for texting. This is pretty lame, but I can't get a new phone just yet.

e) I forgot how glad I am to shop for my own groceries and cook for myself! All summer I just ate whatever my mom would buy at home and packed on the pounds. Now it's time to go back to healthy fun food. :-)

Aug 16, 2009

Moved in!

SO! I'm all moved in to my new apartment! There were even some pleasant surprises waiting for me that the previous roommate had left, like a full length mirror and a lime green desk chair that matches my laptop perfectly! Two things I can check off my "Need to Buy" list.

The only problem is that space is super tight in my room, so I'm still a little unhappy with the layout. Basically my bed is too big for the tiny room that it's in, and I don't have enough closet space. One would think this means I have too many clothes, but I disagree. ;-) I went to Walmart this morning to get some finishing touches: a toothbrush holder for the bathroom, and an over-the-door shoe hanger. My shoe rack won't fit in the closet, and it definitely won't fit at the same time as my hamper. So I'm going to try out one that hangs on the door and see how it goes.

Aug 14, 2009

Back to reality tomorrow

I'm moving back to school tomorrow to get ready for the next semester! We have an orientation week next week and I have to be one of the new girl's "buddies"-- escort her around, answer her questions, go with her to parties. I know, I know, such a hard job. But the week after that is officially when my summer ends. :-( I'm a bit sad because my summer didn't really live up to the expectation I had for it, and now it's over. Although what really does, right?

The good things is, I have my new apartment! I cannot wait to move in, get settled and decorate my new room! I'm a little nervous about getting along with my new roommate though. She decided this summer that she hates having roommates and told me she never liked any of her roommates before. That might be a difficult situation to move into, but I'm hoping she doesn't judge me before we even live together.

Aug 11, 2009

How I Keep Expenses Low While Traveling

Many people have marveled at the fact that I manage to travel so many different places when I am a graduate student (who didn’t pull out any loans). Ergo, I thought I’d give some tips on keeping travel expenses low. Most people probably already do these things, but I’m going to share anyway.

1) Stay at budget hotels, small local hotels or even hostels.
Whenever I plan a trip somewhere, I look for the cheapest accommodations I can that are still a) safe and b) not disgusting. You can save an insane amount of money doing this. For example, on my last trip to TN, we only paid $155 per person on a week's worth of hotel stays!! This is the same as one night in some hotels. Now I know not everyone is like this, but when I am traveling all I really need is a bed and a shower. Websites like can really help when looking for a hotel. But read the reviews with care. Sometimes the hotels are given bad reviews for something that doesn’t matter to you-- it’s all about realizing what aspects of a hotel stay are the most important to you and finding one that fits. I’ve found the best budget hotels are Days Inn and Howard Johnson— really clean beds and bathrooms, free breakfast, and sometimes a pool! I’ve never stayed at a hostel in the US before, but they do have them in some cities

2) Find out the cheapest method of transportation and go with that.
Usually when I travel with my friends, we drive. This isn’t always the best bet though, depending on where you’re going and how much time you have. Sometimes the train has very good deals, and you can see more of the country you’re traveling through. And if you’re in Europe, the train is definitely the way to go. In Germany you can by discount tickets for use in a particular area, or the special weekend ticket that can be used on trains in any part of the country. Also, surprisingly enough, sometimes flying really can be cheaper than driving, even though this seems counter-intuitive.

3) Bring friends!
This is great because it’s not only much more fun, but you can also split costs on things like gas, parking, cabs and hotel rooms. Just make sure you bring friends who are not super big spenders, because they might tempt you to spend more than what you can afford on food, entertainment and accommodation. And I've found it's harder to say no when you're "on vacation."

4) If you are a student, bring your ID with you!
You might be amazed at the discounts you can get with a student ID. Sometimes they are as good or even better than the senior citizen discounts. This is especially true if you go to Europe, since almost everywhere you go will have some sort of student discount. All those little discounts can add up, so you can use that money towards a better purpose, like dinner!

5) Try to get away from super-touristy areas.
Now I know that if you are going to a place for the first time, you want to see the things that you've heard about. I do the same thing! But if you are looking for good food or other activities, wander away from the touristy areas. You will get similar thrills with a smaller price tag. This espeically goes for restaurants, which will jack their prices through the roof if they are in a super touristy area(Times Square, anyone?).

6) Don't buy overpriced souvenirs (they are just junk!).
This kind of goes with the above tip, considering any touristy area will have a plethora of stores where all kinds of crap is sold. Even if something seems cool, ask yourself whether it's really necessary, or if Mom really needs another mug. I'm not sure about your families, but my family doesn't want any of this stuff, and they don't appreciate these types of things when I do cave and buy one or two. Save your money and take pictures, write your memories in a journal, or if you must collect something, try something cheap like postcards.

Aug 9, 2009

Craigslist Games

So I got a guy who called right away asking to buy my mini fridge, and now he's playing games with me. First he made a big fuss about whether it works or not (why would I sell a broken fridge?) and then asked me if I could bring the fridge to HIM. I told him I would do that, since I was going up to the area on Saturday anyway. Saturday morning rolls around, I call him asking him for his address and what time would be a good time to meet, and I don't get a call back until Sunday night??? Apparently he went to NYC for the weekend?? This might have been some good info to tell me earlier... And he still wants to meet to buy it. I'm pretty peeved. I know he doesn't know me, but some courtesy would be nice!

Aug 8, 2009

Trip Finances

So... I have two secrets to tell about my TN trip. Not terribly juicy ones though, so don't get too excited.

Secret #1: I went over budget. :-( Not by too much, only about $30. The gas, parking/cabs, and hotel expenses were exactly as much as I estimated them to be ($75, $50, and $155 respectively), but the spending money I had for entertainment and food was where I went over. I budgeted $325 and spent $355. But man, I didn't realize how many tours and things we would go on, and they were each between 10-15 bucks a pop! I didn't spend too much on food and drinks though, which helped balance it out. Only going over by 30 bucks is no big disaster and everything would be just peachy except for...

Secret #2: I FREAKING GOT PULLED OVER IN VIRGINIA!!! I know when I went there for the weekend in June I said I liked Virginia... well now I changed my mind. I was only going 78 in a 65 on I-81, which isn't even 15 over the speed limit! AND it's not like I was speeding past the other people on the highway or anything, I was going right with traffic! I am super mad at this ticket. Not mad at myself, but mad at the cop. I really feel like I was targeted because I'm out of state. Plus he set the court date for Sept. 16, which is during school so I can't try to fight it and get the points taken away. Argh. So that adds another $126 to my trip expenses. A completely unnecessary $126, if you ask me. Hopefully my insurance won't go up because of it.

Aug 7, 2009

Tennessee Rocks my Socks

Hey y'all! I'm back from Tennessee! All I have to say is, I *heart* the south. Seriously. The accents, the food... *sigh.* I got to do soooo many insanely awesome things on this trip! Our first stop was in Memphis, which was great. Probably my favorite city out of the two (between that and Nashville- we didn't see much of Knoxville). Although the frozen drinks on Beale St. were kind of a bad idea. But we ate BBQ and fried chicken, saw some great live bands, stood in the studio where Elvis and Johnny Cash got their starts, watched the sun set over the Mississippi, visited the Jungle room, and met the owner of Silky's bar (he insulted me, but that's another story).

Nashville was fun too, but it has such a different vibe than Memphis, which was interesting to observe. I'm not a country music fan at all, so Nashville wasn't as exciting to me as Memphis was, but it was really freaking cool to stand on the stage at the Ryman where Johnny Cash used to perform. Plus we went to a dueling piano bar, which I've always wanted to see. And in Nashville I GOT TO PLAY ELVIS' FAVORITE PIANO! The one he recorded so many of his songs with!! Really one of the coolest things EVER. I almost died of excitement and I'm not even a huge Elvis fan... those people would probably hyperventilate or have seizures or something.

But alas, my Tennessee Tour has come to an end. I just got back home, and PA seems so blah compared to how vibrant and different cities in the South are.

Jul 31, 2009

Roadtripping to TN!

Ok, so here comes my last big trip of the summer before I have to go back to school... (I think this calls for a :'-( face). My BFF and I are doing a road trip to Tennessee!! We're hitting up Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis, all in a week. I can't freaking wait to leave, I feel like I've been waiting for this trip for foreverrrrrr. We were supposed to go this past week, but with my grandpa and all, we postponed it a week. Surprisingly we canceled all of our hotel reservations and changed the dates without a hitch! No fees, no trouble at all-- somehow it all worked out perfectly. So I'm heading over to her house in a few hours, and tomorrow morning we'll be on the open road!!

So far with all of the hotels (for a week!) we only had to spend $155 per person. As far as the rest of the trip goes, I'm estimating about $120 per person for gas, parking, cabs, etc. and then $325 for food and entertainment. That gives me a $600 budget for the whole trip. I'm not really worried about going over budget. Last year when we went to Florida, I didn't spend nearly what I thought I would. Plus I'm thinking things in Tennessee will probably be cheaper than tourist-laden Florida. So let's hope for a repeat performance!

Everyone enjoy your weekends, I'll see you in a week!

Jul 30, 2009

The Funeral

The funeral was today. It was pretty rough at times, especially since I just felt so overstressed and anxious, not to mention I had to hold my mom up for half of it. But it turned out nice overall, as far as funerals go. There were tons of people there, the flowers were nice, and I didn't get scared by the open casket like I thought I would. It was just so strange to see so many people there-- his other family, the people he worked with, etc.-- who knew him better than I ever did or ever will. It's depressing that I don't really have any memories with him. But the one nice thing was to see my cousins though at the luncheon afterwards, and enjoy the craziness and inappropriateness that is my family. Even though we met at a funeral, that part was nice.

Jul 29, 2009

My first time with Craig (slist)

Although I've bought some furniture for my new apartment from Craigslist in the past few months, I've never sold anything on there. But I posted my first sale item on Monday... I'm selling my old dorm fridge from college. I used it for all four years of my undergrad career, and now I think it's time to part with it. Plus now is probably a great time because people are going back to college, or going for the first time! I posted it and asked for $35, and I've already gotten an email asking about it! I'm not sure if they will buy it or not yet, since they were just asking for more information. It would be great if it went through though! Keeping my fingers crossed...

Jul 25, 2009

RIP Pop-Pop

My grandfather died today. He had a heart attack yesterday, and didn't make it through surgery this morning. I feel so bad for my mom, because everything is on her. His second wife doesn't know anything and is pretty helpless, so the entire family is deferring to my mom. And the truly disgusting thing is that people are already calling her and asking her about his money...

My family is bugging me to get a new car

This year, our family vacation turned into the "Why doesn't Ashley buy a sports car and date a football player?" conversation that my uncle seems to favor so much. He was ragging on me all week, and even got my parents in on it! They all want me to buy a new car with this new Clunker program. Now don't get me wrong, when I first found out about the program, I was just about jumping for joy. You see, my car is worth next to nothing as a trade-in, and I would basically be making $4,000 for free.

The only problem is, you have to buy new. Now you guys already know I've been toying around with the idea of buying a new car ever since mine started giving me all kinds of problems and making me nervous to drive. So far I have $1,460 saved towards a new car, and technically, I could afford a car payment of $200 or less, but it makes me super nervous. There would be absolutely no breathing room, and I don't want to be stretched too thin. I feel like it just wouldn't make sense to take on even more debt at this point. But my whole family is telling me I'm a fool if I don't take advantage of the program! Argh, it's so frustrating. Have any of you guys been in this situation? What do you think (even I think I already know what you think...)?

Jul 18, 2009

Beach :-)

Hey everyone, I'm going down the shore for a week with my family (= all expenses paid woot), so I won't be back until next Saturday. Hope everyone has a great week!

Jul 17, 2009

What did I do with the Scholarship?

Ok, so I finally figured out what to do with my scholarship money. This is the final breakdown:
$340 = Car Insurance Payment (for the next 6 months)
$200 = IRA (I haven't funded my IRA AT ALL this year... sad)
$500 = to Student Loan
$500 = to New Car Fund
$260 = spending for July & Aug (just gas and any fun things)
$2,300 = to EF

I still just threw the majority of the money into my EF, like I had talked about last time. Some of it is for books for the upcoming semester, but the rest I'll just keep. So now my EF can hover around $2,500 instead of just $2,000.

Oh and PS- I still haven't completely ruled out the tattoo. ;-)

PF Mad Lib!

Decided to try this Mad Lib from Punch Debt in the Face, since it looked kind of fun. I used to love these as a kid!

Hi my name is Ashley. I currently have sixty dollars in my wallet. When I started managing my finances I was worth -$7,800, and now have a net worth of -$4,100 (that's mildly depressing). I currently work as a TA in grad school and have been doing it for one year. I make roughly $17,000 per year. I want to have enough to live comfortably (so my children won't have to support me) waiting for me when it comes time to retire. Aside from learning about finances, I really enjoy traveling and reading. I think the world would be a better place if violence and the fight for power (will never happen... I know) didn't exist. I had some weird egg and spinach pizza that I made on naan for dinner last night and it was surprisingly amazing! I have had 3 significant others over the course of my lifetime (counting awkward middle school relationships). One thing that makes me different is my sense of humor doesn't always match up with other peoples'. Now that I'm done with this mad lib, I think I'm going to go eat breakfast and watch a movie.

Jul 15, 2009

First Swagbucks Prize!

This morning I finally earned enough Swagbucks to cash them in for my first prize! I got the $5 gift card. Since I love reading so much, I have a bunch of books I'm interested in buying. I hope to use Swagbucks enough that I can get a bunch of these gift cards and then go on a nice little book shopping spree! The first book that I really really want to get is I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit. His blog was one of the first PF blogs I ever started reading, and started my years-long obsession. He has tons of useful information on the website, and I think the book will be just as good!

Hey, if any of you have been playing around with the idea of signing up for Swagbucks, please use my referral link! :)

Jul 13, 2009

This morning I woke up $4,100 richer

Yup, you read that right! Our summer scholarship/stipend was awarded last week, and it finally came through into my bank account this morning! It was a huge (and wonderful!) surprise considering they told us this year it would be less than usual because of the economy and blah blah blah. But in reality, it was way more! This is such a lifesaver. It's really tempting to go out and do a little spending though, I'm not gonna lie. Especially since it was so much more than I expected. I really want to be irresponsible and get a new tattoo... but so far I'm resisting. I'm saving most of the money for now until I can figure out the best way to use it. I put the majority into my EF, flushing it back out to about $3,000. I also put $500 more into my New Car Fund, and am going to send about $500 to my student loan. Then maybe a tattoo?? haha...

Jul 8, 2009

How low can it go?

As far as car insurance goes, I’ve been with Geico for a year now, after I switched from Progressive last summer. I was shocked to find their rates were about $400 a year less than what Progressive was charging me, and thought it was a mistake at first. But I went with it, and now my rates have gone down even more! When I first signed up I was paying around $450 every six months, and now they are only charging me $340!! That is a pretty sweet deal, and a really pleasant surprise. It evens out to only about $57 a month that I’ll have to save! Oh, and might I point out that next year I'll be turning 25 (ick) and rumor has it, insurance drops a lot then... things are good.

Jul 6, 2009

Free Fourth of July

Hey everybody, I hope you all had a great holiday weekend! Mine was pretty good overall. Could have been better if I was in an emotionally better place (on a side note, I'm not going to Montreal anymore... a long story I don't really feel like telling), but Saturday was really nice. My dad took me fishing, which I haven't done in years. I used my old kiddie rod with the push-button reel, for pete's sake. But I still managed to catch four fish, and my dad caught four as well. We didn't keep any because they were so small, but after that we had a BBQ and ate outside on our deck. My friend came over around 7, we smoked some hookah, played chess and then went to the community fireworks. So basically, I had a whole day full of awesomeness for free!

Jul 3, 2009

New Discover Card

You know all those pre-approved credit card offers they send in the mail? Well, I fell for one. I’ve been wanting to get a cash-back card for awhile, and Discover sent me an offer I just couldn’t refuse! I get up to $200 in bonus cash back, basically just for using the card during the first year I buy it. I have to spend $500 in the first three months and make at least one purchase a month for the next 10 months. This will be absolutely no problem because of all the trips I’ll be taking this summer. It’s money I’ll be spending anyway, and I’ll get some cash back for it! It’s pretty much the perfect time for me to take the plunge. My new card came in the mail today, and it's activated and ready to go! Do any of you have a Discover cash back card? Are you happy with it?

Jul 1, 2009

"No Clothes June" was a Success!

My June goal to not buy any clothing or accessories in June was successful!! I made it the whole month without buying anything unnecessary. And the cool thing was, since I made it an official goal for myself instead of just thinking “oh I should stop buying so many clothes,” it wasn’t so hard! I mean, I’m not gonna lie, I was seriously tempted when delia’s sent me their clearance catalog full of cute discounted things, but I managed to make it through the month without much difficulty. I will have to try this again sometime in the future!

Jun 29, 2009

Punxy Wedding

Remember how I was telling you guys about my friend’s “destination” wedding in Punxsutawney? It was this past weekend, and it was definitely the best wedding I’ve ever been to. Not that I’m an experienced wedding-goer or anything, but it was so perfect. Beautiful bride? Check. Great food? Check. Open bar? Check. Doing the Macarena and body surfing to Nirvana? Check and Check! We also ended out the night doing a bar crawl and trying to crash an exclusive party with some of the groom’s friends. So. Much. Fun.

Jun 26, 2009


I always get frustrated about getting so sad when a celebrity I love dies, since people think you're stupid to care about someone you never met. But I must say, I am pretty upset about Michael Jackson. He was such a big part of my childhood, all my siblings and I were obsessed. I didn't really think my childhood idol would die until we were both much older. It's a really sad shocking thing. But you know, I just want to say, there was really no one cooler. I hope now people will remember him in a good light.

Jun 23, 2009

Back home

Just so you know, Williamsburg is really awesome. I never realized how much there is to do down there though- too bad we only stayed two days. I still had a great time though, and got to see the two main parks that I wanted to. At Busch Gardens, we went on all the roller coasters, including the Griffon, the one with two 90 degree drops. I think that might be the perfect roller coaster- you totally feel like you're flying! We also saw the old colonial part of town, I learned a ton, and we ate at a really nice old-fashioned tavern that was open even back then. It was too cool. I want to decorate my house like some of the houses there- beautiful canopy beds with curtains, studded leather chairs, and they were definitely not afraid of bright beautiful color and patterns! The weather was great too, and I managed to keep my food/gas/souvenir expenses under 100 bucks like I wanted. Overall a great success!

Jun 18, 2009

Tomorrow I’ll be in Virginia!

Remember how this summer is my summer of travel? Well I already went to Longwood Gardens last month and checked that place off my list (ps- I highly recommend it if you are in SE PA). This weekend I’m going down to Williamsburg, VA with a girlfriend from college. It’s awesome because I’ve been wanting to go down there since I was in high school, but never really got around to it before now. I’m also excited because the weather’s going to be great, it’s near the coast, and it’s in VA. Virginia just appeals to me for some reason, even if I’ve only been there once before.

As far as budget goes, I did some research about the parks (Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens), and the day tickets are super expensive. So I found a website that does vacation packages, and got us a pretty good deal! Two nights in a hotel right in the city center, parking permits for the parks, and bounce pass that will let us go multiple times to both parks (if we need it) for only $188 a person! I expect to spend only about $100 or so on food and gas on top of that, so overall my budget is under $300 for the weekend. Let’s see how it goes… can’t wait!

Jun 17, 2009

Apartment Deposit

Yay! I got my security deposit back from my old apartment. It’s only $100, but that’s still really good since that’s the entire deposit that I paid originally. And it's my first full security deposit that I ever got back. You know how landlords can always find something to charge you for. I’m going to use this money and put it towards my student loan!

Jun 15, 2009

Great Weekend :-)

The last few nights have been amazing... my summer is off to a great start! Thursday night I went to the No Doubt concert in Philly, which was insanely awesome. I've been in love with them since I first heard of them (back when I was in 6th grade... can you believe it?!), and it was pretty much a dream come true to see them live. My mom and I went, and we had tickets right up front in the pit, so I was literally about 30 ft away from Gwen Stefani!! Seriously the best concert of my life. The tickets were hella expensive, but my mom offered to cover mine too. I know I steer away from grown kids taking handouts from their parents, but it is nice to let her pick up the tab once in awhile.

Then, since one of my best friends from college is getting married in only 2 weeks, we had her bachelorette party on Saturday night. We all traveled out to to the Dub C to go bar hopping, and didn't even go to bed until the sun came up (haven't done that in years)! I was a little bit worried budget-wise, but I bought the first round of drinks for everyone and after that didn't pay for a single drink of my own. Sometimes that can be a nice system, as long as people don't all request expensive drinks! The party was awesome though, and I feel like the wedding is going to be just as cool and crazy (although minus the cross-dressing German we found in E's closet at 5am).

Jun 8, 2009


Now, it's not like I'm a super-loyal customer of JcPenney, but for some reason, they love to treat me like one. :-) They send me $10 off coupons all the time. I hardly ever go there, but when I need something and they send me one of those coupons, it's off to the mall I go. Today I went, armed with my coupon, in search of some new bath towels. My set of peach ones are ruined from one too many hair dye jobs, so I wanted something new (and something lighter to wash along with my whites). I got these beautiful cream towels for $6 each, which means after the coupon I only paid TWO dollars for them!! Excellent bargain shopping, if I do say so myself. I'm very excited to use them, they are so soft and such a pretty color!

Jun 7, 2009

I'm ready for my Check-up, Mr. DeMille

Well folks, the year's half over (how does it always go so fast?), so it's time for the dreaded check-up!

Goal 1. Learn to live within my grad student budget: It was super tough these last few months, but I did much better than the fall semester. And this one I think is going to be just fine! Next semester my rent expenses will be cut in half, so I’ll have a ton more money each month as a buffer.
Goal 2. Add an extra $1,000 to my Travel Fund: Well, so far I haven’t added any money at all. To make things worse, I took out a bunch of money to pay for my new laptop because my emergency fund was ridiculously low. Next semester I’m going to try to put more money in, but I’m not sure I can promise $1,000. Boo.
Goal 3. Bring my New Car Fund up to $3,000: Pretty much the same story as above, although I have managed to put some tiny savings into this one, about $125 in total. So, meh.
Goal 4. Refund my Emergency Fund: Our department gives us a summer stipend of $2,800 each year. We haven't gotten it yet, and this year they were hinting that it will be less. Apparently our department is running out of money just like everyone else. I hope it’s at least $2,000 though, because I intend to put that much towards my EF and flush it back out.

So... yeah. Basically, not much has been accomplished thus far when I really think about it. This kind of sucks. But I guess I can't really do much more than the best that I can. We'll see where I get.

Jun 2, 2009

Sooo mad!!

I missed the pre-sale registration for season tickets!!! I completely forgot about it until just now, and now I won't be able to get season tickets for Penn State at all! I know it's just football, but I'm kind of fighting the urge to cry. I was so completely excited for the upcoming season and going to every game with all my friends at school. I'm just mad because the pre-sale ended yesterday, which is just like salt in the wound. I wrote all the dates in my daily planner, but I haven't even cracked that sucker open since school ended. So I forgot, and now I guess I'll only be going to one or two games since I can't afford it when people jack the prices up. Seriously bummed.

May 30, 2009

No Clothes June

I have been doing so much clothes shopping lately, and honestly, I'm kind of tired of it. As far as I can tell, I have everything I need and then some, so I need to STOP. Ergo... my goal for June? Not to buy any item of clothing (including shoes, jewelry and underwear). My credit card bill is uber high this month and I definitely cannot have a repeat next month. I can think of a million and one different things that my money can be used for other than buying a bunch of clothes that I'll just give away in a few years anyway. I'm not gonna lie, this is going to be a hard one to stick to. I need a kick in the butt though, and I'm not going to let myself mess up this goal.

May 29, 2009


So I found out from Budgets are Sexy that ABC is doing a new special tonight called UN-BROKE: What You Need to Know About Money. It looks really cool-- they have these funny previews on their website. I think they're all hilarious, but my favorites are the speed-dating with Antonio Banderas (yum!) and the Cribs spoof with Seth Green! I'm definitely going to have to check it out. Unfortunately, it's on at the same time as What not to Wear (9pm), but I suppose I'll have to make an exception, just this once (*sigh*). I hope it's good... so many people out there need to learn what to do with their money!

Meet my new Love…

Mint! I may be behind the times or something, but I only just tried Mint today. But seriously, now I’m hooked. I get it now- it’s so much easier just to sign into one account that organizes all your finances for you. And this way I won't develop carpal tunnel typing passwords into 492,376 different bank account pages! Everything you could possibly need is listed right there on your front page, plus you get your net worth, awesome little pie charts to see where your money’s going, comparisons and other cool stuff. I’m a big nerd, so I think it’s so much fun-- I’ve been playing around with it all morning. If you guys haven’t checked this out yet, I’d suggest it. It’s really just too cool not to check out, and it's definitely going to make my life easier.

May 28, 2009

Not as bad as it could have been?

Welllll, das Auto needed some new brakes, not that I didn't see it coming or anything. The mechanic actually said I'd let it go so long that the back brakes weren't even good for anything anymore, which is sorta scary (sorta doesn't come up as a misspelled word??). So the good news is that the inspection, tire rotation and new brakes only cost me $375. But the bad news is that the inspection, tire rotation and new brakes cost $375. I still have one more paycheck coming my way (a wonderful perk about working at Penn State-- getting paid for months you don't work), so I suppose that's how I'm going to pay for it. For now it's on the credit card to earn some reward points, though (there's the silver lining)!

May 26, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend

Hey everybody, I hope you had a great memorial day weekend! Mine was really good-- I went to visit some friends in Lanc, so we could all hang out before one of my best friends left for marine bootcamp. I spent probably more money than I should have, as I always tend to do when going out to visit friends in Lancaster, but it was so worth it! We went to the baseball game ($11), out for dinner ($10), out for ice cream ($3), and out for drinks ($8). It made me miss the city so much though-- there are so many cool new restaurants and bars open since the last time I visited, and I want to check them all out. Ugh sometimes I get soooo antsy spending my life in small towns!

In other news, my car is going in for inspection tomorrow... eeeek! Hopefully it's not a disaster!

May 20, 2009

A perfect June wedding...

... no, not for me, silly! My friend is getting married in a few weeks, and I am so flipping excited. Let me describe for you some of the awesomeness about her wedding, so you may better understand why I can't wait.

a) All the girls from college will be together again
b) We are road-tripping to Punxsutawney, PA
c) We are staying in the same hotel where Bill Murray stayed when shooting Groundhog Day! (Maybe that’s pretty lame, but I think it’s neat)
d) My mom is letting me borrow a really pretty dress to wear

Needless to say, it's gonna be a rockin' good time. And to make it better, I think my personal expenses for the wedding will be pretty minimal. We each only have to pay $50 for the hotel and about $25 for gas. And yesterday I used my financial smarts and used my JCPenney gift card to buy them few things from their registry. So in theory, I only paid $2 to buy them something that they wanted!

May 17, 2009

The Summer of Travel Begins

Considering I don’t have a job this summer (first summer I haven’t worked in about 8 years—so weird!), I am overloaded with free time. So I have determined that this is going to be the summer of travel. I mean, I will probably never have a free summer with no job and no classes to take again, and I have a fairly good amount of money stashed away for travel plans, so I’m all set! Here are my big trips for this summer:

1. Williamsburg, VA (1 weekend in June)
2. Newport, RI (1 weekend in July)
3. Memphis & Nashville, TN (1 week roadtrip in July)
4. Montreal & Quebec City (1 week in August)

I would pick one trip that I'm most excited to go on, but truthfully, I'm excited for all of them!! I've been wanting to see these places for a really long time, and now I actually have the chance to do it! I just have to remember to balance having TONS of fun with not spending like crazy. I'm not too worried though—investigating good deals and reading reviews on tripadvisor are actually fun for me, so I should be able to find some awesome deals.

May 15, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

Hey, today is my one year anniversary of having this blog!! I feel like I've learned a lot in one year, and I've made a lot of progress, even if things don't always go the way I'd like them to with regard to my finances. Thanks for a good year everybody! :-)

May 14, 2009

This could have been dangerous...

Today I got an email from VS, saying that they are having a special pre-sale for the semi-annual sale (danger danger!). I was worried that I would be tempted to spend too much, considering the only thing I love more than the pretty things from VS are those pretty things on sale! So, needless to say, the semi-annual sale is my best friend. But don't worry, I only bought four things, and I'm pretty proud of myself! To make it all even better, everything was half the price of the original, AND I used a coupon to save more. The damage was under $40 including shipping... not too shabby! Thank you, semi-annual sale!

May 12, 2009 picking up

Since I joined last summer, I was almost never chosen for any surveys. It took me about a year to get up enough points for a $10 check, and I thought it was pretty much a waste of time. But lately I've been getting 2 surveys a week or so! I'm already halfway to another $10 check after only a few months. Pretty sweet, if you ask me! I am no longer a disgruntled customer.

May 9, 2009

Tackling my Debt

Well, I am finally finished the semester!! I turned in all my papers, computed my students' grades, packed up and left my apartment, and moved home for the summer. Now that the semester is over and I don't have to stress about school for awhile, I thought I'd come up with a new financial goal.

When I graduated from undergrad, I had about $17,000 debt in student loans. By now that’s down to closer to $16,000 (in two years… oy), but by the end of the next school year I want to pay my student loan down to $14,500. This means I have about $1,500 to go in one year, which is basically what I’ve done with the previous two year’s work. It might be a bit difficult, but this doesn't seem like an impossible goal.

How will I do it? Right now I send in $150 each month, and about half of each payment goes to the principal and half to the interest. So, if I multiply $75 by 12, that’s $900 in one year. Then I only need to scrape up an extra $600 over the course of a whole year! Considering I have a large summer stipend coming my way soon, I think this is completely do-able. Maybe I'll even be able to pay off a little more!!

May 6, 2009

Bangin’ Credit Score

So I’m pretty sure I forgot to tell you guys about my credit score (don’t know how that happened)!!! I bought it the other day from Fico, just out of curiosity, not necessarily because I thought it was bad. Well, I am now soooo proud of myself, because my credit score is over 770!!! This means that I am definitely doing something right! I can't wait until the day when I apply for a loan for a house or something and can whip out that bad boy. :-)

May 3, 2009

First Craigslist Purchase (and 100th Post)

Today I made my first ever Craigslist purchase (and I didn't get murdered or anything). I bought a nightstand for my apartment next fall, for only $10! It's nice and solid with real wood and two drawers for my stuff. The lady said it was from the 60's, which you can only really tell because some of the stain is coming off. But I'm sure I'll be able to either paint or stain it for a fun summer project. Also this week I'm going to pick up a desk with a hutch for $25. I just have to find someone with a truck who can move it for me, and I'll be set. After I buy the desk, and find a chair to go with it, I'll have all the furniture I'll need for my new room!

May 1, 2009

Kiva Loan

This morning I got an email telling me that the Kiva loan I lent out last summer has been paid back in full! So this morning I got to pick a new person to help with my $25. Last time I picked a group of three women living in Africa who wanted to expand their store, and today I helped a woman living in Peru who has a dairy farm.

Kiva is a really admirable program, in my opinion. Ever since I learned about microloans in my international studies class in undergrad (an excellent book to read about the subject- Banker to the Poor by Mohammad Yunus), I’ve been a big fan. It’s amazing how an amount that seems so small can be a big help to someone. These microloans are great because the people get to use the money to improve their lives in whichever way best suits them, and they don't get taken advantage of by larger financial companies. It's really a wonderful idea, in my opinion, and I love being able to help out individual people instead of just sending money to an organization. It's awesome to pick out someone who you feel connected to or who you think your loan would best help.

Apr 29, 2009

Menu Plan (ish)

Since I am moving out of my apartment next week, it's time for the mad use-up-all-my-food scramble to begin! I don't have a whole lot, especially when compared to how much food my roommates buy, but I still have a lot of things that need eating. It's almost like an experiment to see how I can incorporate what I have with minimal waste and also minimal additional purchases. So this is what I came up with--

Lunches: salad with hard boiled eggs, corn, and tomatoes, and I'm going to try to make a balsamic vinagarette dressing to use up some of the balsamic vinegar I have. When that runs out, I can some egg-salad sandwiches to use up bread. I also have a lot of fruit sitting around- kiwis, oranges, and blackberries.
Dinners: taco rice to use up the cans of beans and the extra rice I have. It should last me the whole week, since I have a lot. Also, some frozen broccoli as a side.

The BEST part of this menu plan is that I won't have to buy any new food during May (except maybe a bottle of juice), so I can use that money for something else! My idea is that I'll put it towards my student loan, sending them $250 this month. Yessss.

Apr 27, 2009

The end is near

I'm in a really great mood lately. I'm not sure how this is possible since it's the end of the semester, but I am keeping on the positive side. I refuse to be crushed by all of the end-of-semester crap. I think it helps that the weather is absolutely wonderful lately. I took my students outside for class today, since we were just doing some partner work to review before their final. It was funny, they were all prepared to fight for it, and when I simply said yes they were so excited.

Other reasons why I am happy: a) Thursday is payday, b) my May rent is only half of what I usually pay, c) I gave a rockin' presentation today in class, and d) I have 7 out of 20 pages of my last term paper started (the other two papers are already finished)!!!

Apr 21, 2009


Although I seem to have trouble staying within my monthly budget, I have noticed that many of the other grad students are able to drop big bucks whenever they want (daily lunch dates, expensive clothes, flat screen tvs, new cars, etc.). And as much as I hate to admit it, it’s very frustrating to see all of the new things they buy all the time, when I have to dip into savings for any extra purchases at all. My poor brain is screaming: How is this possible on a grad student’s budget?! I know my situation is a bit different because I pay entirely too much in rent, but still, we only make about $1,000 a month.

But lately, through random cube conversation, I learned that at least two girls take handouts from their parents. The one girl’s parents give her money each month, and the other’s parents are paying for her new car. I find this so hard to believe. Sure, my parents paid for my rent when I was an undergrad, but we are not only much older now (the one girl is 29!), but we also are receiving an income. There's no reason for that anymore! What do you guys think? Is this normal?

Apr 18, 2009

Only one monthly payment of 99.99!!

I have decided that getting paid only once a month is lame. In what world does this make sense? Why would they do this to us? Yeah sure, at the beginning of the month you're rolling in it. The “just-got-paid” feeling lasts for weeks. Then, suddenly the glow wears off. You wake up one morning and you realize you have 12 days left in the month… and only $58 left in your bank account. And the worst part is that somehow, you have not learned anything from this, and are doomed to repeat the cycle month after month after month…

Apr 16, 2009

New Look for Spring

I tinkered with my blog layout for awhile tonight, and I'm pretty happy with the result! Hope you guys like it too!

PS- I realize that the "contact me" tab still doesn't do anything, but that's because I'm not sure yet if I'll change that one.

Apr 13, 2009


My sister has vetoed the car idea, so I think maybe I'll just be keeping my regular car for now. She wants her own car, not something handed down to her, so if my parents can find her something cheap and reliable, she won't be getting mine.

I'm slightly bummed since it would be really great to have a new car, but it's also more practical to keep the Jeep. It gets really snowy here in the winters, and it's also handy to have a lot of room to carry my junk around in. I always seem to be switching apartments and moving back and forth between school and home.

Apr 10, 2009

Maybe buying a new car? Need advice!

The other day, my dad offered to buy my car back for $2,500 so he can give it to my sister (she has to commute to school next year). This is such a tempting offer, since it’s a) more than it’s even worth and b) more than I bought it for. I would be making a profit on a depreciating asset... sweet deal!

I really want to go for it, since I've been wanting a new car for awhile. But I don’t have quite enough money saved yet to buy myself anything decent. Altogether I’d have roughly $5,000 to put towards a new car. I could maybe afford a car payment since my rent will be about $200-300 cheaper next year, but I’m not sure that’s a good idea. What do you guys think? Take the sweet deal or just keep saving until I can buy a nicer car?

Apr 9, 2009

Change of Plans

Alright, just when I thought everything was all set up for next year as far as my living situation goes, there’s been a change of plans. Apparently the girl whose apartment I’ll be living in is not allowed to go to Germany anymore (stupid department drama I’ll not get into), and she doesn’t need us to take over her apartment anymore. Thankfully, my name is on the lease so I’ll get to stay as her roommate, but the other guy is going to have to find another place to stay. I feel bad for him, since he is in another country right now and is going to have to scramble for a place to live. But the other part of me is glad that at least I still have a nice apartment to live in...

The downside is that I was really excited to use her big bedroom with the queen bed, but now I have to take the tiny side room, which has no furniture in it. I have a dresser from my old place, but I’ll need a bed and a desk. I refuse to spend money on a twin bed though — if I'm going to buy a bed, it’s going to be a big, “grown-up” one. So we’ll see what I find.

Apr 5, 2009

Birthday Weekend Damage

Today is my birthday and I am now officially old (not that I wasn't old to begin with, but ... ugh). I had a bunch of friends come to visit for the weekend, which was really really fun. We went out to a bunch of cool bars and out to dinner (at possibly the coolest restaurant in State College- a place called the Green Bowl). Although I spent a considerable amount of money (most of it on alcohol--ugh), the damage isn't as bad as I thought. Here's a rough breakdown:
$30 bar covers & drinks
$5 late night pizza runs
$15 Green Bowl dinner
$10 breakfast this morning

Not so bad-- I've definitely spent much more than that in one weekend when friends came to visit before. It's tough having people for an entire weekend because you want to take them out and show them a good time, but not go out to eat for every meal and blow all your money. This weekend was good though, and I'm having a good bday so far too!

Mar 30, 2009

Budget Success in Pittsburgh :-)

Pittsburgh was a lot of fun, AND I came in under budget! I wanted to spend under $175 for the whole trip, and I spent $135! We were lucky because we stumbled across an information kiosk and the lady there gave us a book of coupons for all the museums. So when we combined the buy one get one free coupons with the student discounts, we got some amazing deals. The totals were:
$45/person for the hotel (one girl canceled on us)
$10/person for gas
$62 for food and drinks
$19 for museums and attractions

We did a lot of cool things like the Carnegie Museums, the Incline, the Nationality Rooms @ UPitt, and the Warhol museum. The Nationality Rooms and the Incline were my favorites, but the coolest part of the trip by far was when we went out for dinner on Saturday night. We went to this brewery that is in a church (which is the coolest idea ever invented, btw)-- it was weird to see stained glass mixed with big tanks of beer. The food was amazingly good, plus we got this cool cherry beer and red velvet cupcakes for dessert!

The only problem is that I paid for a lot of things for our group since it's easiest just to pay back one person. Each of the girls owes me $90 and I am a bit nervous that they will keep forgetting to pay me back. I really don't want to pester them for the money. But it's only our first day back, so we'll see how it goes.

Mar 27, 2009


Tomorrow some of the girls from the department and I are taking a trip to Pittsburgh for the weekend! :-) I am so excited, I've been wanting to check out Pittsburgh for awhile. Considering it's Pennsylvania's OTHER city, apparently with a totally different vibe than mine. Plus it'll be nice to be in a real city again, instead of a tiny college town.

Personally, I'm going to try to do this whole trip under a $175 budget. So far we found a nice hotel a little way from downtown for only $35 a person for Sat night with a free shuttle to downtown and free breakfast (yay!). Gas won't be too bad either, since it's less than 3 hours away-- I'm guessing less than $10 a person, even in my big Jeep. Then that leaves me about $130 for food, going out, and any museums or sights we want to see/do. I think I'll be able to do it!

(Oh and special thanks goes out to my linguistics professor for canceling class on Monday-- without her, none of this would be possible!)

Mar 25, 2009

This morning I signed my lease for my apartment for next year! I handed in my application, signed the lease, and paid my security deposit. The security deposit was $365, a fairly big chunk of change, but hopefully I can get it all back when I move out. But now it's all completely set, and I have a really sweet place to live next year!

Mar 22, 2009

A post of randomness

After a year of doing surveys for, I FINALLY have enough points to get a $10 check... woo-hoo? I must not qualify for any of the good surveys, since I only do about one or two a month and other people blog about getting checks from them much more often than once a year... I'm still grateful to get the ten bucks though.

Also, have I mentioned that I have my student loan balance under $16,000 now?! I'm making tiny steps, but I'm still super proud. :-)

On Wednesday I sign the lease for the new apartment! I'm completely excited, except for the fact that I have to pay $360 as a security deposit. Not sure how, but I kind of forgot about that part of signing leases. But it reminds me that I'll hopefully get $100 back in May from my current apartment!

I might do a cheap weekend in Pittsburgh next weekend, since my Monday class got canceled and I'll have a homework free weekend for once in my life.

I joined twitter today. I'm still not sure how that's going to work out, but so far it's still in the "yay new toy" stage. (and my blogging style today is influenced by it, apparently)

Mar 10, 2009

I love Tax Returns!

Today I got both of my tax returns in the mail! I got $118 back from local and $563 back from federal, for a grand total of $681! Sadly, I went to the mall and got a lot of new summer clothes the other day. They were needed, and I got a lot of new (and really awesome) things, but I spent about $120. So that leaves me $561 to save, and I decided to put it all into my "New Car Fund." Both of my ING savings accounts (for travel and for a new car) took a hit when I had to buy my new laptop a few months ago. But since I have a lot less saved in the car fund, I'm going to use this tax return to try and bump up the total. Sometimes I love tax season! ;-)

Mar 3, 2009

One less thing on my to-do list

So in addition to finding an apartment to live in next year, I also finally have a roommate. It’s a bit of a weird situation, since a) it’s a guy and b) I’ve never met him. He’s in the German department too, but he’s in Austria this year for an exchange. We’re friends on facebook and we’ve talked online once or twice, but I really don’t know much about him. He seems cool, though, and the other girls in the department all love him, so I think that’s a good sign. I’m excited to meet him, but at the same time I’m a little weirded out by having to share a bathroom with a guy... I hope he’s clean!

Feb 28, 2009

I'm mad at ING

Oh, and apparently my ING Online account has dropped the interest rate to almost HALF of what it was when I signed up?!!! It's down to 1.8% now. I know banks are hurting, but it annoys me that it's always the customers who end up getting gypped, while the bank owners still get their vacations and jets. Plus, what is the point of having my money there if they're not making good on their promises??

February Food Challenge Recap

So remember I was doing the February Food Challenge from Krystal at Give me Back my Five Bucks? Setting a budget for grocery shopping for February? Well my goal was to keep my food budget under $130 for food for myself for the month. Usually I got at least a little bit over that, especially since I try to cook real food instead of eating processed food all the time.

But this month, I made it JUST under! I spent $129.12 for the month on food for myself. It was a bit of a stretch towards the end of the month, but it actually worked out really well. I know I can stick to it this month too, since I'll be home for spring break for a week and won't have to buy quite so much food.

Feb 25, 2009

Cheap, easy money

One great thing about going to a big research university? Getting paid for participating in experiments. Now I'm not talking the creepy, what-will-they-inject-me-with-today type of experiments. I participate in the easy ones-- experiments for my professors and also fellow grad students. I have to do things like read texts and sentences in German and answer questions... and I get paid for it. It's really a sweet deal. An hour or so of my time, and I'm 15-20 bucks richer than I was when I woke up in the morning. And sometimes they're even fun! Maybe I could branch out to other departments and see if I could earn a little more secondary income.

Feb 20, 2009

Credit Card Mess

I signed into my credit card online account today to check my balance, and they had a message on the front page. Apparently, my account was “compromised” in some way, so they are shutting it down and issuing me a new credit card number. This is the second time this has happened to me. The last time was with my bank card though- someone hacked into an account somewhere and got my number, so I had to get a new one. But there weren’t any unauthorized purchases or any money missing, so it wasn’t that bad. And so far, there isn’t any funny business going on with my credit card *knock on wood*. I guess they do this as a preventative measure before anything really bad happens, but it’s all just a little bit scary. And since it’s already happened to me twice, I have to wonder if it’s something I’m doing wrong that’s putting my accounts at risk?

Feb 18, 2009

Scaled-back Spring Break Plans

I've decided that since I'm going to (hopefully) be doing a lot of traveling this summer and next, Miami and South Carolina are out for spring break this year. My spring break is going to be one spent relaxing at home with the family. The other night I was talking to my little sister though, and since she has spring break the same week, we decided to take a day trip together to NY. I've been there a million times in the past few years, but she was only there once when she was little. It should be really cool. The only thing on our agenda so far is to go to Anthony Bourdain's restaurant, because, let's face it, we are both just a little bit obsessed with him. He doesn't cook there anymore, but all the recipes are still his, which is awesome. And if he actually stopped in that day and we got to meet him, I'm pretty sure we would both die of excitement. Other than that though, I'm still not sure what we'll do.

Feb 13, 2009

New Apartment

Well kids, I found a new apartment to live in next year!! One of the girls in the German department got her acceptance letter to study abroad in Kiel next year. She wants to keep her apartment... I was looking for a cheaper apartment... you could say it was the perfect match. So I'm going to live in her apartment next year while she's gone. We just have to find a roommate to take the other room, and then the rent will only be $350 a month per person (uh-maze-ing!)!!

The other day I took a tour of her apartment, and it's awesome. It's very roomy with an upstairs and downstairs, it has beautiful wood floors, and she is keeping all her furniture there. This is very lucky for me because I don't own a single piece of furniture. And she has really nice furniture too- brand new couch, high def TV, queen sized bed. Plus the apartment is close to campus and downtown, so I can keep walking everywhere like I do now. Overall this seems like the perfect situation. :-)

There is only one small problem though- she has so many plants and fish! My two greatest talents in life seem to be killing plants and killing fish. She says it’s OK if they die, but I think she is just saying that to calm me down. Hopefully the roommate is better at keeping things alive than I am!

Feb 9, 2009

Spring Break

I just got invited by two different girls to go on trips with them for spring break, within the course of an hour. One asked me to Hilton Head, SC and one asked me to Miami!! I want to go soooo badly, it would be so much fun to go there with my new friends. Plus I've never been anywhere for spring break, so I feel like I should go just to experience it. And technically I do have the money for it, since I have my Travel Fund. I do have a lot of big(ish) trips planned for this summer though, so I feel like I should save it. Also, my mom expects me home on spring break, and she will probably get really upset if I don't come home. I think it's safe to say that I have myself a conundrum here. Oh what to do, what to do?

Feb 4, 2009

Taxes are done!!

Instead of being a good grad student last night and reading Heinrich von Ofterdingen like I was supposed to, I spent about three hours organizing and filing my taxes. It was pretty complicated this year because I had to pay taxes on the money I converted in my IRA, plus I had student loan interest deductions. Usually I just file the 1040EZ and get on with my life, but this year I wasn't allowed to, and had to jump to a 1040A.

I was trying to root through all the paperwork myself, and did a fairly good job of it, but I was still nervous about doing something wrong. So I ended up caving and using TurboTax's online program. I found out about it by accident, but it will help you do your taxes completely free if you made under $30,000 last year. Basically their program got the same answer that I did doing it myself, which means I was doing something right. But the cool thing is it found a deduction for me that I didn't even know about! So I mailed in all of my tax stuff today, now I can just sit back and wait for the money to come. Pretty sweet. :)

And on a side note, I made $24,000 this year! I know that is a paltry amount to some people, but I have never made so much money in one year before, so I am pretty impressed with myself.

Feb 3, 2009

Price Gouging at it's finest

As you may recall, this year I am living in university housing for grad students with three other girls. The apartment is alright, very dorm-like, but considering the dump that I lived in during my undergrad, I like this place. The only downside is that the rent is a little steep-- $655 a month. Considering I only get paid around $1,000 each month for my stipend, money has been (and still is) pretty tight.

I was originally planning on living here again next year with one of my current roommates and friends of hers, because they want to stay. But today I got an email explaining that they are raising the price to $700 a month next year!! Let's take a minute to review- that's $700 PER PERSON for a small four bedroom apartment. That’s $2,800 a month they’re raking in!! What annoys me the most is that I could get my own apartment completely for myself somewhere else, for less than what they are asking. I mean, $655 a month is already expensive, but it was convenient to move in here when I didn't know anyone or anything in the town. But there's no way I can afford more than that. Looks like I'm going to be apartment hunting in the next few weeks...

Jan 29, 2009

February Food Challenge

Krystal from Give Me Back My Five Bucks is having a February Food Challenge. The challenge is to set a budget for your food purchases for February, and stick to it. Each Friday there will be a check-up to see how everyone is doing.

My budget for the challenge will be $130 for groceries for myself. This is kind of a lot for groceries for only one person, but most of the time I still go over (at least by a little bit)! But this time since I actually have to check in with the other bloggers, hopefully that will give me more incentive to stick to it.

Jan 28, 2009

New Laptop has arrived!

My new laptop came yesterday!! It's a little weird because it's basically the same model, just thinner, lighter, and with all the ports in different places. But it works, and it's fast, and it's lovely, so I'm really happy.

And, remember how I bought one for $845? Well, about two days later Dell sent me an email with a link to this HUGE SALE they were having. I called and very respectfully asked if I could get the discount, but I was shot down. Apparently they don't have any kind of price protection service at all. Now I wouldn't normally do this, but I cancelled my order and bought a brand new one for the sale price the next morning. I did feel like a bit of a jerk, but the computer on sale was even faster and better than the one I had first bought, and it was a whole $200 cheaper!!! So even though it might have been a spiteful move, I feel it was completely worth it.

The only sad thing is that since my EF is horribly depleted as of late, I took half of the money from my Travel Fund and half from my New Car Fund to pay for it. I updated the sidebars to reflect that.

Jan 25, 2009

Awesome weekend

Right now I'm in the office trying anything to avoid doing my homework for tomorrow, so I decided to update you on my cool weekend. Friday night I invited some of the other girls in my department out for dinner. They chose this place called Cozy Thai, which has (surprise!) Thai food. I never had Thai before, so I was really excited. I decided to go the standard way, and just ordered some Pad Thai. Simple, but it was soooo tasty!! And the best part is, I had enough for lunch yesterday and it only cost $11 for the meal. I definitely have to go back there again.

Last night my roommate and I decided to have a fun night in. We had all these grand plans to cook quiche, but it kept getting ruined, so we ended up wasting a lot more food than was necessary. First, the pie crust completely collapsed and spilled the egg all over the place, then on the second try the cookie sheet warped and spilled half of the egg mix out again. We salvaged that one, but unfortunately it didn't even really taste good. So, needless to say, we will not be trying to cook more quiche again anytime in the near future. But the rest of the night was fun- we watched Vanity Fair and then went to late night arts & crafts at the student union and painted some birdhouses. We love going to arts & crafts, but it's funny because we're usually there with a bunch of freshman. It's fun though, and now we have a few more things to decorate our living room with. :)

Ok, back to homework now I suppose. I am drowning in it. But my reward for getting everything finished will be going out to the movies with some of the girls later.

Jan 19, 2009

Restaurant Challenge Going Well...

Remember how I mentioned a few posts ago about limiting my dining out to once a week? Well, so far, it's working! Granted, I've only been back at school for one week, but still. Last week I only went out to eat once, at this really cool sandwich place I never went to before. I went with the writing group that I am now a part of. We might go again tonight when we meet, but I'm not sure. Hopefully this week goes just as well, but we'll see if I can keep this up once the warmer weather kicks in and I'll want to do other things besides stay dry and warm at home. Not that I believe this will ever happen... I don't think the snow is ever going to stop accumulating and just melt already!

Jan 15, 2009

January's Tale of Crazy Spending-- Mein Laptop ist kaputt

Sorry I've been MIA so long, but I've been mourning a "death" in the family. On Sunday morning, I accidentally murdered my laptop. The weapon? A cup of apple juice. My dad and I had to do some emergency surgery on the kitchen table. We tried our best to revive it, but it is completely dead now. The bad thing is that my laptop is no longer under warranty since it's almost 2 years old, and Dell was going to charge me a minimum of $500 to repair it and replaced all the messed up parts. So I let myself be convinced by various friends and family members into buying a brand new one, since for a few hundred more I can have a new one that's more or less guaranteed to work right. So I ordered my new laptop on Wednesay- unfortunately, it set me back $825. Oy, it still hurts to see that number. I just have to keep reminding myself that (unless I do something completely moronic again) I'll have it for a few years and won't have to buy another for a long while.

Jan 8, 2009

Eating Out

So I was reading savingdiva's blog this morning, and she mentioned something in a post about how she tries to only eat out at a restaurant once a week. This is a pretty good idea from my view, and I think I might have to borrow it! At school my biggest expense after the bills are paid is going out for meals-- even if it's just for a quick sandwich at Panera or something. Her idea seems like a great idea to both save money and stay healthy. So once I go back to school, my goal this month will be to only eat out once a week. This will be tough for me to implement, I'm sure, since I love going out to eat and I never want to miss out on fun when people invite me places. But limiting myself a little might have its benefits; we'll see. I also think that if I only eat out once a week, I'll choose a nicer restaurant over McDonald's or the coffee shop. Wish me luck!

Jan 4, 2009

Travel Plans

I have to go back to school in a few days, and I'm not looking forward to it. So yes, I am already dreaming for the summer. This summer I won't be living out at school since my lease ends in May and picks up again in August, and I probably won't be working at all (I get a summer stipend from the university). What will I do to fill my time, you ask? Travel!! I have a whole bunch of different trips planned. Most are small(ish) weekend or day trips to places in the area that I've always wanted to go to but never have. My list of places to visit in my lifetime keeps growing and growing, so this summer will be my time to check some off! Naturally, since they are fairly close, I hope to do all of these trips on a tight budget to save money. As of now, the list of places I'm planning to go includes:
  • Niagara Falls
  • Pittsburgh
  • Boston
  • Longwood Gardens
  • Newport, RI
  • Montreal & Quebec City
A road trip with my best girlfriend to either Chicago or Nashville might also be in the works- we're not sure yet. But the Montreal trip is the one I'm most excited about, since I'll be visiting one of my best friends who lives up there. I've never been to Canada, and Montreal both looks and seems like an exciting place, so it should be awesome.

Jan 2, 2009

Starting off my year

Hi everyone! I thought I'd start my new year off right by posting some financial goals for the year. I have a feeling that it's going to be a lot harder to accomplish these than the goals I had last year, considering I make a lot less money and have many more expenses (I no longer have the luxury of living at home haha). Also, in the past few months I've struggled with sticking to a budget, and have been spending more than I earn (and don't even ask about December's spending-ugh). But keeping to the "New Year- New You" mentality that so many people apply, I am working to change that. I am going to try even harder than I've been to spend a lot less. This way I can save for things I really want-- traveling and a new car.


1. Learn to live within my grad student budget: I still struggle with this, even after a whole semester. I usually always have to dip into my savings to pay my bills when the month is over. I want (and NEED) to change this!

2. Add an extra $1,000 to my Travel Fund: I have a ton of trips planned this year and also a big one next year, so I want to have this fund up and over $5,000 by Dec.

3. Bring my New Car Fund up to $3,000: I want a new car, and it's entirely possible that soon I will need one, since my car is so old. I want to have more money available for a down payment. Right now the fund is a tiny bit over $1,000, so I will have to work hard to achieve this one.

4. Refund my Emergency Fund: Since I dipped into this to pay bills during this last semester, it is embarrassingly low. I need to get this back up to at LEAST $2,000, but I intend to put in more if that's possible.