Dec 29, 2010

2010 goal recap!

Hi everyone, I hope you had a great holiday with friends and family! Well it's the end of the year (already?) and I must say it was a great one. I’m not sure about success on the financial front, but I got to live in a new country for a bit, see and do tons of awesome things, improve my teaching, and check lots of things of my life’s “to do” list.

1. Pay student loan down to 14,500
NO. Started at $15,391, Currently at 14,999. GROSS. Don’t really want to talk about this (except for one little thing-- under 15 yay!).
2. Get EF up to $2,000 (and keep it there!)
SORT OF? So in June I had $250 in the EF, now I have $1,800. I guess this goal is half complete—I got it up high enough, but still had the crazy fluctuation that I always do.
3. Put $1,500 more into my Travel Fund
CHECK (ISH). Not really, because I actually emptied the fund to go to Italy, but I did use about $1,500 for that trip in the summer months... does that count?

1. Travel to at least THREE new places
CHECK!!! I traveled to approximately 15 new places, in three countries! Or maybe more!! Probably my most successful goal. :-)
2. Get a new tattoo
NO. I just haven’t had the money for it. I picked a design though, and a place. Now I just need to scrape up some money, though I’m not sure where from.
3. Read 35 books
NO. I got 22. I was busy this year, and also over the summer, which is usually when I read the most and catch up.
4. Keep my relationship with the boy healthy and happy
5. Try out 20 new recipes
CHECK. I tried more than 20, with some great ones and some big failures.
6. Only buy (and wear) clothes that I absolutely love
CHECK. I think I’ve gotten better at this overall. I also discovered the magic of clothes from Express... which gives me a YES in a love department, but not necessarily always in the wallet department.
7. Volunteer this summer.
NO. I went to Italy, so I didn't have the free time that I thought I would.

1. Eat at least one fruit and vegetable per day
CHECK on the fruit part, NO on the veggie part.
2. Start using organic body products
CHECK. I switched over in late February and now use organic everything. My acne is WAY better, but not totally gone yet. But still, I’m thankful that it’s not so bad as it used to be! If any of you guys have bad acne and nothing seems to work, give this a try!

1. Put more effort into teaching
CHECK. I have been trying to think of more creative activities and getting tips from other teachers. I still don’t really like teaching that much though, so it might be time to start thinking of a new career path.
2. Attend my first conference
CHECK! I went to GLAC like I wanted, and got some great feedback on my very first paper.

Looking back on these goals, I accomplished most of them! But it's a little frustrating, because for some reason I'm not pleased with it. I don't feel that nice sense of accomplishment, and I'm having trouble getting excited about 2011. I have some goals in the works though, so maybe making my new list will help me feel better about the upcoming year.

How did you guys do on your goals this year?

Dec 27, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Hi everyone, I hope you had a Merry Christmas and lots of fun with family and friends. For those who don't celebrate, I hope you had a nice long weekend! :-)

My Christmas was nice, we had a little bit of drama and worrying yesterday because of the snow storm, but it turned out alright. We had everyone over our house this year, and though I hate to say it, I'm sort of glad it's over. I haven't had a chance to relax during my break yet because of all the cooking, cleaning, shopping, and wrapping that I had to help my mom with. She worked all week long and didn't have time, so I was the Christmas slave. But now it's all done and I can relax, read, and enjoy my new gifts! I got lots of new stuff for my apartment this year-- I was like little Sally Homemaker or something. The boy and my mom both bought me cookbooks, I got some Pyrex mixing bowls (which I've been wanting for so long!!), a cupcake pan/carrier, a new bookcase, a toolbox and an external hard drive. I actually got a lot of surprises this year, which is not usually the case.

As far as I could tell, everyone in my family liked the presents I gave them too. I don't usually spend too much every year, usually between 25-50 for each person. This year I got my dad a headlamp (he has been asking for it for months), my mom an Underarmor baseball hat she can wear while exercising (another request), my grandma a purse, my sister the complete works of Edgar Allen Poe, and my brother a hand crafted bowl made out of a Simon & Garfunkel record. For the boy I bought NBA Jam for Christmas, and this card game called Munchkin for his birthday present. And I think they were all happy with them. :-)

Dec 23, 2010

Bridesmaid Dress Shopping!

Next summer, I’ll be a bridesmaid in one of my best friend’s weddings, and the wedding is in LA. I've never been in a wedding before, so I'm really excited! We went bridesmaid dress shopping together yesterday, and I found a dress in under a half hour! We were limited by the fabric/color choices, also by the vast amount of ugly dresses. But we had it narrowed down to two good ones:

I LOVED the flower one, and was hoping she’d like it too. It's just so cute, and so me. But it was sort of awkward for a bit there, because I couldn’t tell which she liked better. She didn’t seem so sure about it, and I didn’t want to pressure her. Because, let's face it, her wedding day shouldn't be about me! But it was definitely the most flattering out of the ones I tried on. And thankfully in the car she was like “Oh I’m glad you picked the flower one, I didn’t really like the strapless one.” She apparently thought I liked the plain one better, so was trying not to pressure ME! Haha.

But- you'd better sit down for this one- sucker cost me $190!! I was expecting (for some reason) a dress to be about $125 or something like that. It’s not a huge problem, and I’m definitely glad I got the chance to pick my own dress style and all. I am just surprised once again by how much I underestimated the cost of something big. And I still have to buy shoes, get my hair done, etc. Eek!

Have you guys ever been in a wedding far away? I've never done it before, so how much should I estimate to spend on all of this? I don't want to underestimate again!

Dec 20, 2010

Credit Card Churning Craziness

Ever heard of credit card churning? Well, you can accuse me of living under a rock, but I never did. But man, last night a whole new world opened up in front of me. Credit card churning! Basically it's opening up new credit card accounts to get the bonus offers and then canceling, only to open a new account a few weeks later and get the bonus again. And some people do this with as much as 10-15 cards a year... I love it. I don't know why I do, because as a PF blogger I should be vomiting in my mouth at the sound of it. But it's absolutely fascinating to me the things crazy people will do.

I was inspired (ok, ok, not really, I was already planning this for a few weeks) to try it a bit myself. I applied for a United Airlines Visa from Chase. You get 30,000 miles for signing up, and the annual fee is waived for the first year. That's enough points for one free domestic round trip flight, or two tickets and I'd pay a little on each. I was checking around on the internet to see if there were any restrictions to using the points and canceling it before the year is up to avoid the fee. Looks like it'll be ok, and from what I've read, it seems like my credit score will only take a minimal hit, if any.

I mean, 10-15 new cards and cancellations each year is WAY too much risk for me, but... a *little bit* of risk sounds great if it benefits me. :)

Dec 19, 2010

Ready for Christmas!

Wow! I definitely didn't realize that Christmas was coming up in a week! This is great news! I'm ready-- all presents are bought and all presents are wrapped. I didn't have so many people to buy for this year-- just my grandma, mom, dad, sister, brother, boyfriend and two friends. I spent $173 on presents in total, and sixteen on random stuff like cards, candy, bows, tinsel, and all that other fun stuff. Not too bad, and definitely less than I've spent in other years. I think the sales just keep getting better and better each year.

I didn’t quite reach my savings goal for Christmas, but I did manage to get about $200 out of the proposed $250. And as luck would have it, I didn't need that extra $50. So my EF is still all nice and intact! :)

Now to just sit back, relax and wait for the fun to begin!

What all do you still need to do before the holidays? Are you excited?!

Dec 16, 2010

Potluck Dinner (Fail?)

My roommate hosted a party last night, and man... sh*t's expensive! I think I grossly underestimated the costs involved, and unfortunately didn't budget nearly enough. I spent $50 on food, and L spent $50 on alcohol... for a POTLUCK dinner. As in, the kind where other people are supposed to bring everything. We were so worried about not running out of anything that we ended up WAY overprepared. Some of the food we didn't even put out because we forgot we had it, and didn't need it anyway.

I mean, don't get me wrong, the party was awesome and so much fun! I liked playing hostess, it was really fun to have everyone together and make sure everyone's happy and full and having fun. I don't really regret it at all, but I do regret the bill a little bit. I sorta wish I hadn't spent so much! But I guess, a lesson was definitely learned.

What kind of holiday shenanigans are you guys up to?

Dec 7, 2010

It's nice being Santa

I took your suggestions and went for the Lego's. I agree, Lego's are awesome because you can build, play, and be creative too. I got the boy to go in on it with me, and he picked up a pair of PJ's for the kid too. Camo, because he said if he was a seven year old boy he'd like camo the best. It was too funny though- they only came in Small Medium or Large sizes, not numbers. We were confused so we had to ambush some poor woman and ask her what size she thought would fit a seven year old kid. As luck would have it, she also had a seven year old, so she gave us the right advice. Except then... she wouldn't leave. She followed us around regaling us with tales about how the jeans she buys are always too long, and how her son is growing so fast, and on and on and ON! I mean, really? I don't know you, stop being awkward! Haha.

Anyway though, now the presents are given, and I hope that my kid is happy Christmas morning. :)

Dec 2, 2010

Charitable Christmas Giving :)

When I was a kid, my family always did one of those charity Christmas gifts for kids in need. We always really loved it and we would help my parents pick it out. I haven't ever done one on my own, but this year is my year! I got an "Angel" from the Salvation Army. I picked a 7 year old boy who wants either footed pajamas, Legos, or a Tonka RC car for his gift. I thought this was a good list cuz I can get any of these things, but it's turning into such a production! Some of the stuff is hard to find, and I'm so flipping indecisive that I can't narrow in on a gift. I wanted to get him a basic Lego building set, but what if he already has that set or something? Also what if he really needs PJs? Ack! And so, faithful readers, I turn to you.

If you were a 7 year old boy, what would you like best?

Nov 26, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hey everybody! I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! Mine was pretty good. The boy came to Philly to visit with my family for the first time, and I (successfully) attempted to make a Martha Stewart pie. Not something I think I'll make into a habit though... so complicated!

Today the boy and I went shopping for Black Friday, mostly just cuz we were bored. I only bought a necklace at Old Navy for 7 bucks, so no insane spending spree for me. Today was only the second time I've ever been out for Black Friday, and neither time seemed that crazy to me. Granted, I went in the afternoon, but I've never seen things as crazy as the stories you hear. Maybe I should go at like 4am next time, what do you think? Haha.

After shopping, we had lunch at Friendly's, one of my favorite restaurants that my family used to go to when we were kids. Have you guys ever been? The boy never heard of it before, apparently they don't have it in the Midwest? That's just craziness, is what that is.

Nov 23, 2010

The Eye Doctor Lies

Apparently the eye doctor I went to last year was out of network!! They were recommended to me by some people in the department-- last time I take recommendations from people with money to blow. I almost hyperventilated last year when I saw I needed to pay almost $500 for new glasses and a year’s supply of contacts. Now I know why it was so high— I was getting such tiny reimbursements compared to what I could have gotten in-network! Apparently when a place says "Sure, we take your insurance" that means they can take your insurance for one tiny part of the process and that's it!! It’s like a trick. Good thing I at least learned my lesson and checked it out better this year. It was mildly annoying to go to a new eye doctor, but it totally worked out in the end... a year's supply of contacts for 70 bucks, baby!

Nov 14, 2010

Gail's Recommendations

I'm bored right now, or just avoiding doing work... you know how it is. So anyway, I was playing around on Gail Vaz-Oxlade's website and I found the following recommends for where your income should go. I figured out how much I should be spending for each of the areas, and calculated how much I really am spending. I'm not that far off at all!

Income: $1,245
Housing: 35% $435.75
Debt: 15% $186.75
Life: 25% $311.25
Transportation, 15% $186.75
Savings 10% $124.50

And here's what I'm doing:
Income: $1,245
Housing: 32% $400
Debt: 22% 270
Life: 26% $325
Transportation, 8% $100
Savings 12% $150

The only really negative thing is that I have a bit too much debt for how much I make. But I make up for it by having really low transportation costs, so I think *maybe* it's alright. Good things are I save more than 10% and I'm right on target with the housing and "life" categories!! I think it's pretty cool that I never did one of these tests before making my budget, but I'm doing it right.

Nov 10, 2010

Let's take a second to define Impossible, please...

In our group meeting this morning with our supervisor, everyone was talking about how everyone has student loans in grad school. My supervisor was literally like “It’s impossible to live without them. There’s no way you can live off of a grad student’s salary.” And I’m sitting there thinking... um, I do? I mean, I’m not saying it doesn’t suck and it’s not hard and annoying, but it is possible. You can't just blow it off without even trying. It’s just funny to think, once again, how I come from a different place than these guys. They can't even imagine living off of what we get paid, so they think that no one can. Their lifestyles have always been more expensive. But you know what, I’m super proud that I’m not taking out a single loan to get through grad school. AND I still have money for a new car and to travel and all that awesome stuff. AND I will still have money for that later when they are paying off loans. And less stress to boot! :-P

Nov 4, 2010

I apparently missed the whole last month

I guess it's November already... although my brain doesn't know it. I saw commercials for a Veteran's Day thing on TV this morning and literally thought: "It's way early for that, we just started October!" Oy.
October was one of the first months that I made goals for in a long long time. Truth be told, I was hardly ever on this blog, so some of them I kinda forgot about. But I did alright anyway! :)

1) Save $100 towards my friend's CA wedding --- YES. Gotta love automatic deposits.
2) Limit eating out to no more than two times a week --- YES. I went out a lot less this month, in part because I've just been busier. I don't have time to go out and spend a few hours on dinner.
3) Do NOT go over budget --- MEH. I did a little bit on my groceries category, because I ran out of money and I really don't have any stockpiled food here. And hey, I need to eat.
4) Try out two new healthy budget recipes --- YES. I tried some kale soup and a sausage egg frittata with egg whites and turkey sausage. Neither of them were great, but it was worth a try at least.

So overall, a MUCH MUCH better month than September was. This month I just gotta work on not buying so many small snacks all the time, like cupcakes and candy bars and gatorades.

Oct 10, 2010

Week one down, bring it week two!

So far my October has been going MUCH better money-wise! I stuck to my goal for the first week and only went out to eat twice -- once at Chili's for $10 (the boy covered the tip) and once at this awesome bar for our girl's night, which was only $12. I stuck to the stuff I like that's cheaper, which included an AMAZING caprese salad that was almost as good as in Italy! I'm proud of myself to sticking to my guns and not breaking my goal on my first week!

This coming weekend my friend is coming to visit, which could be a little tight on my budget... I'll have to think of some cool stuff we can do that won't cost me a million dollars. :)

Oct 2, 2010

Till Debt Do Us Part

I'm spending my Saturday night in this weekend, since I didn't feel like going out in the cold or watching the football game. And it's a good thing too, since I happened upon this fabulous show called Till Debt Do Us Part. Have you guys ever seen it? It's like a money Supernanny for grown ups! She basically comes in and gives them challenges to help them revamp their lives and get out of debt. The one I saw tonight had a couple who spent SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS over their income every single month. And $2,000 of that was on groceries and eating out!! I was floored. I can't imagine spending so much money on food (and as we've seen before, I spend a lot of money on food...)!! Such a cool idea for a show, rather than people just calling in and asking people for advice. If you've never heard of it, check it out!

Oct 1, 2010

Happy October!

Happy October, everybody! One of my favorite months, not because I love Fall (cuz trust me I don't), but because I LOOOOVE Halloween! I already bought mostly all the pieces for my Halloween costume, on a budget of course! I'm so ready to go. :)

I don't usually do monthly goals, but since September was such a shit show regarding my finances, I've decided to set some concrete goals for myself this month. And here you go:
1) Save $100 towards my friend's CA wedding (Travel Fund)
2) Limit eating out to no more than two times a week
3) Do NOT go over budget
4) Try out two new healthy budget recipes (I already have one in mind!)

Alright, those are all I can think of for now, but it's not a bad thing to start small. :)

Sep 26, 2010

Biggest Fail Ever??

Hey, remember how I had such high hopes for my first cash-only month?? Well, I crashed and burned, folks. And not like, crash-my-bike-and-scraped-my-knee crash, more like the-plane-fell-out-of-the-sky-in-a-burning-ball-of-flame crash. I ran out of cash for the month last Sunday... and just. kept. spending. It's like I blacked out or something for the last month, and am only now being shown what happened. I mean what was I doing? I'm currently about $135 over budget for the month, which may not seem like a lot, but when you realize it's over 10% of my monthly salary... ack. And the worst part is, it's all on food! I was trying to keep track of my cash to see where it was going, and of what I remembered to write down, this is how it went:

$33- Random snacks (Gatorades, candy bars, dairy queen, etc.)
$92- Meals (at restaurants or fast food)
$28- Breakfast (gotta let the boy stop convincing me to go to the Waffle Shop every Sat morning)
$13- Part of a Halloween costume
$6- Used books
$4- A puzzle

So there you are folks-- I never really realized just how much of my "Fun/Entertainment" money was really just spend on eating things! I don't even have anything to show for it (not even extra poundage... thank goodness for small miracles).

I'm so frustrated, but I can't let myself get too down. Just gotta watch better this month and try harder not to be so loosey goosey with my money. It's just gonna be hard because I'll have even less money to work with. But let's hope October is looking brighter...

Sep 14, 2010

Where Should I Get My Tattoo?

I've been like a madwoman in the past few weeks, participating in study after study. I got my brain electricity read (NOT fun), did a word memorization task (kicked butt!) and also visited some random webpages and then filled out surveys. From doing these three studies, I ended up with a fresh $51 in extra cash! As I said before, I *heart* easy experiments that pay you. And there are so many of them to choose from!

And what might I be doing with that extra money? I got quoted for a tattoo today... fifty bucks! Remember how one of my goals for this year was to get my second tattoo? Here goes! I didn't make an appointment yet because I still have to figure out some details, like what exactly it will look like and where it will be, but it's awesome that their minimum is only fifty. I am thinking of a small little sun somewhere, to remind myself of Italy. I'm thinking on my ankle, or maybe on my side under my arm. So I'm opening it up to you guys for ideas- do you have any ideas of good spots for a sun tattoo?

Sep 6, 2010

Happy Birthday to My Car!

My car turned 1 year old last month! I should have a birthday party for it, one year is such a big birthday. ;-) I can’t believe it’s already been a year. And the great thing is, I only put 7,2600 miles on it! I’m under average, which is excellent, which means less wear and tear on my car!

And you know what else is cool? How much of my loan I’ve paid down in just one year. $1,774! Granted, it’s a 0% interest loan, but still, it’s cool to see that much progress on it! Not nearly as depressing as my student loan, which pretty much never even budges despite all the money I throw at it.

Sep 1, 2010

September = Cash Only (Kinda)

Alright, here we go! Today marks the start of my very first "cash-only" month. I've never done this before, so I'm going to start small and just use cash for my Fun and Miscellaneous categories. That's where I overspend the most, so we'll try this and see if it helps. But that means I'll have $195 in cash just... laying around. It seems weird to have that much money out at one time, even though that's what I did in Italy for the whole summer. Guess it's different with dollars since this isn't usually how I roll here. But anyway, good luck to me! And good luck with all of your budgeting adventures for September too! :-)

(In other news, it. is. so. HOT.)

Aug 28, 2010

Fall Semester Budget

Well September is almost here, and now that I got my paycheck for it, I'm starting to think about budgets. Here is what I'm planning for this semester:

Monthly Income: $1,245 (the real total once insurance is taken out)
Rent: 360
Cable & Internet: 30
Electricity: 10
Food: 130
Car Payment: 150
Gas: 40
Loan Payment: 120
Fun & Entertainment: 140
Miscellaneous: 55
SAVE: 210

As far as the saved money goes, I set up automatic payments of $100 to go directly to my Travel Fund (to go to CA for my friend's wedding). I have to save $60 for my car insurance bill coming up in December, and I'll save about $50 a month for Christmas until I get to my goal of $275. After that, I'll save the extra for books and parking for next semester.

AND since I got lots of extra money this month, I put that away for Christmas too. So right now I have $77 saved for Christmas, $120 for my friend's wedding, and $60 for car insurance!

Aug 27, 2010

False Alarms

I had two false alarms of happiness today:
1) Rumor had it that we were getting a pay raise this year, even though our contracts said the same amount when we signed back in May. Cut to today, and our paychecks were SEVENTY DOLLARS more than usual!! Pure ecstasy! But the hitch is... the idiots forgot to take out our health insurance costs. So, I guess the news is still half good because I’ll still be getting about $20 more each month. But you know, twenty bucks ain't no seventy.
2) Amazon sells groceries! I was super hella excited about this, because even though I love the grocery store, if I can save money I’ll do whatever it takes. But you know what? I am never gonna get through 6 jars of peanut butter, 27 boxes of mac n cheese, or 10 boxes of the same flavor cereal. I guess this is geared much more towards people who have families. Poor me, with only one person to eat all the food, has no use for pounds and pounds of it, even if it is cheap from Amazon.

Aug 24, 2010

No Books!

So today was the second day of school, and guess what?! I don’t need to buy a single book for school this semester!!! All of my classes are using articles as required reading, which I can read online or print out for soooo much cheaper than buying a book! I’m so psyched, this is the first semester ever where I didn’t have to pay for books!

Aug 22, 2010

Kicking of the Christmas season in style…

Ok, I know it’s insanely early, but I just bought my first Christmas present of the season! I only bought it this early because it was a one-of-a-kind from Etsy, and it was perfect for my brother. I bought him a bowl made out of a Simon and Garfunkel record. He is moving into a new apartment (we hope?) relatively soon, and I thought this would be something cool and funky to use in his new place. He loves weird artsy stuff, and loves Simon and Garfunkel too, so it seemed the perfect fit. Also, it only cost me $14 including shipping, so I think it’s a win-win situation!

Aug 19, 2010

My first cash-only month?

You know, after seeing the train wreck that was my annual credit card summary, I’m even more tempted to try a cash-only month. I have always thought about doing it, but lacked any kind of push. And plus… all that CHANGE. But really, having a credit card does make spending too easy. I mean, so what if I don’t have the money in my wallet right now, I have the money to pay the credit card bill somewhere in one of my bank accounts. But then my savings go backwards instead of doing their job! So I think in September I’m gonna try out my very first cash-only month! Have any of you guys done this before? Were you successful?

Aug 15, 2010

Trying for some extra income

Way back when, when I was kinda sorta seeing this South American guy, he gave me a whole big package of books and computer games to learn Spanish. And now... I'm selling it. Dude did me wrong and took away any desire I had to learn Spanish. I put an ad up on Craigslist this morning, with pretty pics and everything. I know it probably won't get as many bites as selling furniture would, but I'm still trying. Hopefully I can get at least a bit of cash from this, and get rid of extra crap at the same time! Ahhh, Craigslist really is a wonderful thing. :)

Oh, and if any of you guys want to learn Spanish, let me know... ;-)

Aug 14, 2010

The Scholarship has Landed!!

Our summer scholarship is FINALLY in!!! It took sooooo long because of some stupid glitch in the system. I mean it’s supposed to be for summer living expenses, since we don't get paid in the summer, and it usually comes in late June or early July. And the summer is over already! I mean for pete's sake, we're getting our first paycheck for the fall in another 15 days. It really is ridiculous. A lot of the other people teach over the summer, but since I don’t I’ve been completely flat broke since I got back from Italy. But anyway, it's in now (PHEW), and I’m raking in the dough!! I also got my security deposit back from my last apartment, so I have $4,065 to contend with. This is my breakdown-
$1081- check to my parents for the money I’ve borrowed from them
$2000- to my EF
$200- getting new contacts
$784- bills, furniture, etc. for the rest of Aug
It's kind of boring, I'd like to be able to splurge on a little something for myself, or use part to pay down my loans, but at least I can totally refund my EF!

Aug 12, 2010

I've Joined the Savers

I finally did something I should have done a long time ago. And, admittedly, I only did it for the chance at winning a $5,000 or even $50,000 prize! No shame here, folks. I set up an automatic transfer to my ING account each month. So now, $100 will go into my Travel Fund while I sleep. :-) I’m taking Ramit’s advice on this and hoping that automation works better for me than manually putting money in myself each month. Cuz I need that money by next summer for my friend’s wedding- no ifs, ands or buts about it! AND, perchance I'll win the prize money too! (Haha I wish)

Aug 9, 2010

This is Ridiculous

You know, credit card annual summaries are both really nifty and REALLY SCARY. On one hand, it’s kinda fun and cool to see your expenses all broken down by category, and remember what you did over the past year. But then... I SPENT $6,221.30 ON ONE CREDIT CARD LAST YEAR. And no, I’m not joking. That’s the actual number. It makes you shudder, doesn’t it? It gets worse when you realize that that’s almost HALF of my annual income. I spent $555 on gas, $140 on tolls, $1,544.65 on “merchandise” (thank god this includes groceries!). It’s like a train wreck… I just can’t stop looking. Ok, so in my defense, I charge EVERYTHING to get the points (like seriously... there are a number of $1 charges on here) and pay off my bill in full each month. But still... six thousand dollars??!!

Aug 7, 2010

My New and Improved Apartment!

Remember when my roommate kicked me out in favor of her boyfriend? Well, I’m all moved in to my NEW apartment, which is simultaneously brand new and exactly the same! I only moved two doors down in the same complex, so I have the exact same apartment with a flipped layout. Which really blows your mind, by the way.

But it's still so different. The last roomie had tons of fancy things, mostly because of her parent’s shiny little credit card sitting in her wallet. I got used to the life of luxury there. If I wanted a fancy cedar wine rack, it was there. Extra-sharp Henkels knives? Done. Turkish rug in the living room? No problem!

Now, L and I have an empty apartment. We are house poor, as my mother would say. Our bedrooms are all done up, decorated and furnished, but the downstairs is literally a ghost town. We have a dining room table, 2 lawn chairs, and a TV on the floor. Oh, and an empty bookshelf. But you know what? I don’t miss all that fancy like I thought I would. I love my new apartment, because it’s more mine than the last one ever was. Every time I’m in it, I like it more and more. I mean, eventually our situation will change as we find some second-hand furniture to fill it up, but I really don’t mind sitting on the lawn chairs for now. :-)

Aug 4, 2010

Post-Italy $$$

Ok, now that my gushing over Italy is finished, it’s time to talk finances. I did a really bad PF thing. I literally have NO money right now (please see sidebars for more info). I spent basically exactly what was in my budget, which left my bank accounts more or less at 0. I did that because we get a really large scholarship in the summers, and it’s supposed to be in by mid-July. But, go figure, it STILL hasn’t gone through. I expected to have it by the time I got back to pay for my life in August, and I don’t. It’s insanely stressful and a bit embarrassing because I’ve been leeching off of my parents until the money comes in. Thank God they are willing to help me out! And don’t worry, it’s not free. I’ll pay them back once the money comes in.

But anyway, since all of my bank accounts are now drained, it’s time to set some new financial goals! Everyone’s favorite... yay!
1. Replenish my EF - I should be able to fill it out to 2,000 again with the rest of the scholarship money.
2. Save up money for future car repair – In about 3 more years, I’ll need tires, brakes, etc. Better to start squirreling away some small amounts now than have to shell it all out at once later.
3. Save $1,700 in my Travel Fund by next summer – Next summer, I’m going to be a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding in CA, which means lots of costs for a dress, gifts, flight(s?), etc. I also am planning on going to another GLAC conference, which is in Austin, TX next spring, and doing a road trip to visit my BFF in Boston in June.

Aug 3, 2010

I'm baaaaack!

Hey everybody, remember me?? Probably not at this point! Well, I'm back from Italy now, and sorta uber depressed about it. I come back from sunny Italian beaches, great food and amazing adventures to boring old central PA. And it's cold and cloudy to boot... sigh.

Being in Italy was amazing though. I know it's cliche to say it, but I can't even really describe it to people who've never experienced it. I mean, Southern Italy can be really really frustrating sometimes, which I think people don't expect. There's a lot of corruption and inefficiency, it's dirty and hot and smelly, there are no toilet seats, and nothing ever gets done when people say it will be. Not to mention the infestation of roaches in our apartment! (I lost count after we killed 25 of them.) But then at the same time, it is so incredibly beautiful that you don't mind anymore. I saw more beautiful places there than I've ever seen in my life, seriously. I never completely got over it.

And I had SO many cool adventures. I cliff jumped at a topless beach in Tropea, got stung by a jellyfish (which turned into a battle scar, it's pretty cool), went to a goat farm and ate freshly-made ricotta, snorkeled off the coast of Sicily, saw a saint's day festival, bathed in a smelly sulfur mud bath next to a volcano (and reeked for three days after), got lost in an old-fashioned fisherman's village, tried every regional specialty that I could, bought my food at a loud crazy street market, and relaxed on the beach almost every day. It really was una esperienza indimenticabile! :-)

Jun 12, 2010

Italy Dream List

My plane leaves later today! I am getting really nervous and anxious for some reason, even though I've been waiting for this for months and I'm not afraid of flying at all. I wonder why? Oh well. I am calming myself by making a list of things I absolutely MUST do while I'm in Italy. Here goes:

1) EAT: This, more than anything else, is my big goal. I literally just want to eat and drink wine. And I want as many local dishes as possible. This may or may not include a fried spleen sandwich and some sardine pasta in Sicily... it’ll depend on just how gross I feel like getting that day.

2) RELAX: I really want to get into the Southern Italian culture and just chill. I want to relax on the beach and not have to worry about going anywhere, doing anything, or money, or stress. This isn’t my usual style, so this might be the hardest thing.

3) Pick an orange off a tree: I love looking at orange trees. So I want to pick one off a tree and eat it.

4) Speak Italian: Even if I get nervous and mess up.

5) Make friends: The other people in the group are way younger than me (like 5 years younger), and they are all undergrads. So basically their goal list is probably like "Get drunk" and "Party." I'm not the most social person, and I'll be very different from them, but I'm going to try to make friends with some of them anyway so I'm not on the outside. Someone's gotta have something in common with me, anyway.

6) Try a mudbath on the Aeolian Islands: As a group, we are taking a boat ride out to the various Aeolian Islands (including the volcano Stromboli!). I'm super excited and want to try out the mudbaths there on one of the islands.

7) Ride a vespa: I’m not sure if I’ll get any opportunities to do this, I guess I'll have to do some major sucking up to some locals. This isn’t a do or die thing like the others, but it’d be really sweet to pull an Eddie Izzard-style Pope and say “Ciaaaao!”

So that's it. I'm not going to have internet in Italy, so I probably won't be on this blog much at all, but I'll see you all when I get back in 7 weeks!!! :-D

Jun 9, 2010

Budgeting, Italian Style

There are only three more days until I leave for Europe!!!! EEEEEE! I'm really freaking out!! This is going to be so awesome. :-) I'm so excited that I just have to share the master plan with you, complete with a budget and Euro-US Dollar conversions! Haha.

First, I'm spending a week in Marburg, Germany visiting a friend. I used to live here, so I can't wait to go back. It's my favorite place that I've ever lived! Plus I haven't seen her since September. :-) My budget for that week is one lump sum: 285 euro. That includes all of our various planned activities-- train tickets, World Cup games in Frankfurt, going to the zoo and a drive along the Rhein, + food for each day and buying some stuff for the boy. I should probably be under budget here, but just in case.

Then, I'm taking a night train from Germany to Rome (already paid for), and we've got Italy for six weeks!! The first week will be spent in Rome (except for Saturday when we are moving in in Reggio), so I have 100 euro allotted for fun & free spending money, and 55 euro for food once we move into our apartments. These are hiiiiigh estimates, since all of our activities are paid for by the program. I probably won't use it all but rather more than not enough, right?

After we get all settled in in Reggio, my budget goes to 35 euro a week for groceries and 65 euro a week for free spending money. I think these will be just fine... I'll have more than enough to go out for dinners or to the clubs, and enough for food during our weekend trips.

Also, I budgeted some money for one weekend trip to Palermo, which is 170 euro. With the program, we go on a ton of pre-paid trips around the area, but we also have 2 free weekends. I have always wanted to go to Palermo, so I'm going to take one weekend and do it. It's only about 3 hours away by train and ferry!

So, the rough totals once the euros are converted:
Food: $285 (230 E - 35/wk + 55 for week 1)
Spending: $525 (425 E - 65/wk + 100 for wk 1)
Souvenirs: $35 (25 E)
Palermo Trip: $210 (170 E)
Week in Marburg: $350 (285 E)
TOTAL: $1,405

Side Note: Going out to dinner is always budgeted in fun money for me... it's easier for me to mentally keep it separate that way. :)

Jun 8, 2010

Bad PF Blogger

You know, lately I’ve been feeling like a “bad” PF blogger. I mean, since I started this blog, I made goals to pay down my student loan debt, and didn’t achieve them. I went out and bought a brand new car (granted with a 0% interest loan and $5,500 off, but still). And NOW I’m spending my entire travel fund + on one 6 week trip to Italy. Even though I’m not upset about these things, sometimes I feel like one of those irresponsible people that many PF bloggers write about with disdain. You know, “How dare you take a 6 week vacation/trip when you have all this debt?”

But isn’t part of personal finance about freedom and happiness? Isn’t that why we take care of our money, so that we don’t have to give up on the things we like best in life? I guess people can call me irresponsible, but I am a firm believer in doing what you want to do. What’s the point of dreaming about things if you never do them? I'll be the first to admit I am probably doing things backwards. In paper form, it's definitely pay down debt first, travel later. But my reasoning is- how can you pass up a chance to fulfill three life goals in one shot, especially when you aren't going to go into extra debt to do it? I mean really, how?

Jun 4, 2010

2010 Goal Updates

It's halfway through the year already, so it's time for the dreaded check-up on my 2010 goals. Overall I'm doing OK, and a few are already completely finished!

1. Pay student loan down to 14,500
Started- 15,391
Current- 15,273
Wow. Um. Not much to say about that one.
2. Get EF up to $2,000 (and keep it there!)
So... I have 250 in my EF right now... another fail.
3. Put $1,500 more into my Travel Fund
CHECK (ISH). I put about $650 into it this year, but then I decided to go to Italy. That will empty out the Travel Fund completely. But since almost my entire June paycheck is being used towards traveling, I guess I will consider this goal complete.

1. Travel to at least THREE new places
So far, I’ve been to two new places: Mankato, MN and Milwaukee, WI. And when I go over to Italy, I’ll get to add about 10 more cities to my travel map!!
2. Get a new tattoo
Not yet, maybe in the fall though? Not good to get them before summer.
3. Read 35 books
This last semester was hell and I have only finished 10 books so far… I have to catch up like crazy in the summer if I want to do this. Stay tuned.
4. Keep my relationship with the boy healthy and happy
Things are going good.
5. Try out 20 new recipes
So far, I’ve cooked 9! My favorite was the BBQ chicken burgers with coleslaw.
6. Only buy (and wear) clothes that I absolutely love
I'm not doing so hot on this I don't think. I only bought three new shirts to wear this summer, two likes and one love. I also LOVE the Capri pants I bought. I returned about 5 things that I bought and didn’t really like too much though, which is about my normal style I guess. I have to stop letting my mom convince me to buy things I don’t like.
7. Volunteer this summer.
Since I’m bouncing around from place to place for the entire summer, one week here, one week there, I think I'll postpone this either for the Fall or next Summer.

1. Eat at least one fruit and vegetable per day
Well… I’ve gotten better. I usually get the fruit in, not the vegetable though. I really do hate most veggies.
2. Start using organic body products
CHECK! I switched over in late February. I now use organic shampoo, conditioner, face wash, acne medicine, lotions and shave gel. My acne has totally improved, I only get a zit once in a blue moon now which is amazing. If any of you guys have bad acne and nothing seems to work, give this a try!

1. Put more effort into teaching
CHECK. I think I did this semester. I put more effort into creating fun and interesting lessons, but I’m not really sure that my students learned anything or even enjoyed my class. Teaching is the most frustrating job ever.
2. Attend my first conference
CHECK! I went to GLAC like I wanted, and got to travel to Milwaukee to present!

Jun 2, 2010

The Week of Nothing

Continuing with the ping-pong game that is my living situation, I'm back at my parent's house again after spending a nice week at school with the boy. My last week to see him before I'm shipping off to Europe.

You know what, it's so strange to hang out with him and have literally nothing to do. We were completely inspired by the nothing, so... we did nothing. All week. We watched the whole first two seasons of True Blood (omg new obsession), took walks together, and saw a comedy rap duo for a $5 concert (they were actually really horrible, but the potential was there!).

AND. We played golf! I have never golfed before in my life, I’ll tell you what, I did not suck!! At least, I didn’t end up in any lakes or forests like I thought I might. My biggest problem was the in between shots, where I had to chip it up... I’m completely horrible at that. But it was really great, that was my birthday present from the boy. My birthday is actually in April, but we were crazily time and sleep deprived during the semester (how sad is that, actually?). So I got a late birthday treat- one round of golf, 2 tries in the batting cages, and some of those yummy wonton tacos from applebees... all free to me!

May 29, 2010


One of my goals for this year was to switch to all organic bath products in an effort to ditch the acne that’s been chasing me around for my whole life. It’s actually working really well!! But that’s a story for another time. Anyway, I now buy my soap from a company called Pangea Organics, which is really really cool if you’re interested in organic products. It’s on the pricey side though, so I usually have to wait for the sales. But man oh man, did I score the jackpot on this last order! First off, the soaps I use are BOGO for the month of May. Then I signed up to review free samples of new products, and they gave me a 20% off AND $5 off coupon that I could layer. So I just bought FOUR bars of yummy smelling organic soap for less than the price of two… $15.50, to be exact (and that includes their uber-expensive $7 shipping, thank you very much!!). Ahhh, I how I love the smell of a great deal in the morning. :-)

May 23, 2010

'Fessing Up

Ok ok, I have something to confess. It’s not anything super juicy or horrible, for those of you who got super excited just now. ;-) I don’t secretly have a love child, a married lover or $1,000,000 in credit card debt.

But if you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you might remember this one little goal I made way back when concerning my student loan. Last May I promised that I would pay my student loan down to $14,500, or $1,500 off the principal in one year. And, well, I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped. I made it about halfway... I’m sitting at $15,273 right now. It’s better than nothing of course, but I still didn’t make it. At the time it didn’t seem like such an ambitious goal at all, tough but not impossible. And then I bought a car. And planned a trip to Italy. It’s funny how things can change so much in just one year’s time, and so I didn't end up throwing all my extra money at that loan like I thought I would.

So there you have it... my confession. Go easy on me.

May 19, 2010

No more responsibilities

Man, summer is a wonderful time of year. No time restraints, nowhere to be, nothing pressing to do... I love it! Too bad life can't always be like this.

I'm also happy because I got to erase one more thing off of my list of responsibilities this summer... My apartment is signed over. Our subletter signed the documents, I paid the balance of the rent, and now I don't have to do anything at all except enjoy my time with the boyfriend, sit in the sunshine (if it ever freaking shows up!) and pack up my stuff to take it home. Everything is taken care of until I show back up in August!!

May 13, 2010

Shutting it all down

I called the cable company today, armed to the teeth and ready for a fight. I figured the big bad Comcast wolf would never let me cancel service without a battle to the death. But... it was eerily peaceful and easy! I mean, I called to cancel a free trial of some lame dippy internet service awhile ago and had to argue with the guy for about 5 years before he let me go. But Comcast? I just walked away no problem. So weird!

Check off another thing I don't have to worry about until August! Woot!

May 12, 2010

Subletting is Annoying

Lately I have adoped the absolutely wonderful, fun, relaxing activity of... trying to find a subletter. Ugh. You’d think it’d be easy in a college town, with thousands upon thousands of people moving around and changing apartments, etc. But it took me 3 solid months with no bites before I found someone! I was posting on Craigslist, in the classifieds, in the grad student newsletter, and mailing people who needed housing for the summer... and I got nothing until just this week. Ridiculous!

But at least I finally have a subletter, a girl in my department actually. Good things are that I know her, my roommate knows her, and she is responsible. The bad thing is she can only afford $250 a month because she will be paying rent on both her apartment and mine (long story). So, that leaves me to pay the extra $250 to cover the rest of rent and utilities for June and July. I guess at a certain point, anything is better than nothing, though. I'm just glad I don't have to worry about it anymore.

May 10, 2010

SUMMER! Finally!

My semester has FINALLY come to an end! And I am proud to report that I got A's in two of my classes, with the third grade still to come. :-) Now it's time for the lazy days... reading, sitting in the sunshine, and studying Italian. I'm at home for a week, back up at school with the boyfriend for another week, and then home for 3 more weeks until it's time to go to Europe!

One goal of mine before I leave for Italy (besides learning 2 semesters worth of Italian) is to work out more. I'm so out of shape it's ridiculous. Can't even run for a minute before I can't breathe and get dizzy. That's insane (and really embarrassing to admit, actually)! I've been trying to work out every day though, something cardio and then followed by a full body weight-lifting session. So we'll see if I make it the full month until mid-June!

May 7, 2010

Summer Bill Trickiness

My summer tuition bill is PAID! This means all my fees are taken care of, and I have nothing to do but sit back and relax until Italy!

Just one problem-- I was a dummy and didn't know there was a convenience fee of 2% on every credit card payment made through the university. I waited until the very last minute to pay my bill so that it would show up on June's cycle and my money could collect a bit more interest in the bank. Makes sense in my mind. BUT now I got slapped with a $30 fee to pay with my credit card! And the money isn't in my checking to pay with an e-check, so I had no other choice. Well... the lady at the Bursar did try to trick me into taking another choice. Deferred payments! Sounds wonderful! Until you factor in the FIFTY DOLLAR deferment fee!! Aaaahh those people are sneaky sometimes. I *almost* fell for it...

May 3, 2010

"As we headed off to exciting destinations like... Milwaukee"

I have a paper due at midnight, that still needs lots of working over, so of course... it's time for a blog post! Right.

I just got back from my road trip (with my profs!) to the conference in Milwaukee, and let me tell you, that is a cool place! I had so much fun, who knew conferences could be so cool? And traveling on the department... amazing! I didn't have to stress if I could afford the $15 entree for ONCE in my life, I could live it up! I ate tons of cheese (including Limberger-- don't ever do it!), visited a brewery, tried famous Wisconsin cheese curds (DO do it!) and walked along the river. :)

My presentation went well too, even if there weren't that many people there. Apparently not too many people are interested in experimental L2 phonology... I've run into this problem before. But it's so cool, I just don't know why people don't like it! Oh well, it was a good group for my first conference presentation, and one of the profs there offered to send me all this extra material and things to help me out, so that will be sweet. I already can't wait till next year- Austin baby!

Apr 25, 2010

Shopping Deals

Even though I shouldn't have, I went to the mall today. I sound like some sort of addict, don't I?? No really, I'm just super low on money until payday on Friday. But my roommate's birthday was Friday, and I forgot to get her a gift in time, so I had to get her a gift today (*sigh*). Don't you hate when people spend a lot of money on you for your birthday, so you feel obligated to get them something?

Thank God for sales though! I got her this really cool ceramic soup crock set for only $13! Her and her boyfriend eat soup like it's their job, so it was the perfect idea as well as being super duper cheap. AND she loved it. Man did I luck out!!

PS- I also got a new pair of VS underwear for me for only $2, because of my birthday $10 off coupon. :)

Apr 14, 2010

No Internet in Italy :-/

Things with Italy are more or less set and ready to go!!!! I got my visa (nice, shiny and green!) and we had our orientation night. The itinerary for our program rocks- we're going to Sicily, some great beaches, towns with Greek ruins, and the Stromboli volcano! I seriously can't wait.

But there is one thing that bugs me hardcore-- our apartments have no Internet access. In what world would they pick apartments with no Internet?! I realize that it is more important to go out and experience life, don't get me wrong. But how am I supposed to cheaply keep in touch with my family and boyfriend without Skype or a phone line?

So now my thoughts are consumed by trying to figure out ways to call home that aren't going to cost me an arm and a leg, because there are wayyyy better things to be spending my money on than a prepaid Italian cell phone that will cost me 98762094353 dollars to call home with.

If you guys have been abroad recently, what did you do?

Apr 13, 2010

Is this semester over yet?

I cannot wait until May. I am busy to the point of BREAKDOWN over here. There have been tears, there have been panic attacks. Sometimes I am not sure allllll of this work will get done. And the worst part is, the presentation I'm doing at the conference? My data is shit and I've got nothing. ARGH.

In good news, my friends from college are coming this weekend to visit!! I am a little nervous about losing a whole weekend, but it'll be so good to have them all over to hang out. :-)

Oh and ps- If you ever find yourself at a fancy restaurant for wine tasting, make sure you don't also drop $50 on dinner. Just sayin'-- learn from my mistakes.

Mar 28, 2010

New Roommate Found (I Hope)!

So remember how my roommate more or less kicked me out for next year? I finally found a solution to the problem! Awhile back I told my landlords that I'd like to have my own two-bedroom in our complex, and they had one open for me. I already signed the lease and put down my deposit, so the next step was to find a roommate.

And... DONE! I was emailing people on Craigslist who had put up ads requesting housing (you can better weed out the crazies that way), and found a really cool girl. She came to visit last Sunday, we had coffee Wednesday, and she's signing her half of the lease this Wednesday! She seems really fun and easy to talk to, but there is one problem. Her mother is a freaking nutcase. She came with to see my current place to get an idea, since it's only 2 doors down. Cut to her trying to break into my neighbor's apartment so she could see what his bathroom looked like. And going on and on about how the landlords completely have to gut and redo the kitchen before we will move in there. And rip out the carpets in the bedroom. Like, seriously?!?! What the hell does she think the landlords will say to that? I'm imagining something along the lines of... F*ck off! (after hysterical laughter).

I really like the girl, and am totally cool with having her for a roommate, I just hope that her mom won't push her around and convince her to make all these crazy demands. It seems ok because when we had coffee (sans mom) on Wed, I told her I wasn't comfortable doing that so I won't ruin my good relationship with the landlords, and she said she understood. I just hope she doesn't go bat-ass crazy when we meet with them on Wed, or else I'll be in the market for a roommate again.

Mar 27, 2010

Slightly in Shock

Sorry I've been so crap about updating! Well, an update:

I am going to Italy!!!! For real, the approval letter came on the 15th (I know, I know, I'm soooo late). But starting June 20th, I will be basking in the warm Italian sunshine, eating pasta and drinking good wine. :) And I just bought my plane ticket!! I'm really excited, but I am in shock as well. The flight was $1,400. Yes, you read that right-- FOURTEEN HUNDRED DOLLARS. I've never paid more than $700 for a flight IN MY LIFE, and this is double that. I'm super perturbed, actually. Guess that's what I get for flying in the middle of the summer. That's only part of the problem, though. The other part is that I have to fly home from Reggio, a small airport, which jacks up the price as well. I have to be back at school the very next day after I get back (my lease ends), so I can't take the time to travel up to Rome and leave from there. Balls.

I just have to keep remembering that sunshine though, then maybe I won't be so stressed... :)

Mar 8, 2010

Man, living out your dreams can be expensive :-P

In only 7 more days I'll find out for sure if I get to go to Italy or not!! I'm already registered for classes there and already got my summer tuition assistance approved, but it won't all be formalized until March 15. I assume I'll be accepted but you all know what they say about assuming... haha.

I know I told you guys before how this trip will be hella expensive, but I was kind of hiding the details. So here's the truth: it's going to cost me about $5,100. Yes, you read that right... five THOUSAND. *sigh* Basically, I have enough in my travel fund + my tax refund to cover the program fee ($2,695) and the flight if I can get a good deal($1,000). But I still need to scrape up about $1,000 for food, going out, and souvenirs/clothes/whatever.

But I have a plan! Well, two plans:
a) Sublet my apartment for June and July. Finding someone is already in the works, but no biters yet. If I can do this, then the only bills I'll have to pay for those two months are my car and student loan payments.
b) We get a scholarship every summer from the department... at least $3,500 but sometimes more. Even if I use $1,000 out of it, I'll still have leftover money to refill my EF like I plan to.

Mar 4, 2010

Update of sorts

Sorry I've completely given up on this blog lately, but I'm STILL sick and feeling crappy. Mono is a bitch, to say the least. I was even jaundiced last week because my liver was in such bad shape, so at least THAT's improved. But as far as the mono goes, my glands are even more swollen than before, my throat hurts more than before... it's like I'm going backwards! I'm so completely over it at this point. At least spring break is next week so I can just spend the whole week and SLEEEEEP. Boring, but glorious!

In other news, I'm starting to run participants for my experiment, and it's going great!! So far I have 14 people signed up, which is a big enough sample size for the conference I'm attending. I need a few more people to make it big enough for a publishable article though, so we'll see if I can get them. It's a little hard when I don't have any money to offer them to lure them in, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Feb 17, 2010

Sick sick sick

I've been insanely sick the last few days-- my weekend consisted of laying in bed all day and growing a spectacular collection of lumps on my neck. For one second I was kind of hoping it was the plague, because who could ever have a better story than "So, did I ever tell you about the time that I had the bubonic plague?" But, never fear, it's apparently mono. Who the heck knows where it came from, since I don't know anyone who has mono right now, but whatever. I only know two things-- mono sucks, and cortisone pills are amazing. For real, they make me feel 150% better. I'm still trying to rest though, because that's just an illusion and I know I'm not really better at all yet.

I seriously lucked out though, getting the worst bit of it this week, because this week is not super busy for me. Taking some time off from classes is not really gonna hurt me too much right now. And one good thing I guess is that if I'm not really supposed to be out and about, I can't spend money! Haha, gotta look for the silver lining somewhere...

Feb 11, 2010

Lowering Expenses, One Day at a Time!

I just got two bits of good news that will both help me save more of my hard-earned money for Italy! First of all, over spring break the boy wanted to go down to Georgia to visit his sister, but (as mean as this sounds) I didn't really want to go. She is way older than us (like seriously-- only 3 years younger than my parents) and lives in a small town, not to mention he hasn't even seen her in 10 years. So what the heck would we do around there for a whole week? I didn't really want to spend all the money to go there if it would be boring. But anyway, those plans fell through, so that right there saved me about $200-$300 bucks!

Also, I got accepted to go to Milwaukee in April for a conference! Our department gives us $350 to spend at conferences, which is good except it's for everything-- flights, hotels, food, etc. But I seriously lucked out because our two professors are renting a van to drive us there, and they offered to pay for all the van and gas costs! Which means, I probably won't have to spend a dime of my own money to go there! That in itself is bitchin' enough, but also let's take a moment to appreciate how awkward/fun/crazy a 10 hour road trip with our professors is going to be... I can't wait!

Feb 6, 2010

I kicked the snow's ass AND got my tax return!

Snowpocalypse (I have to use this name as much as possible because it amuses me immensely) will not keep me down! I kind of missed the memo that a snowstorm was coming, because apparently I live under a rock, and woke up with no food in my apartment. So today I traipsed through 15 inches of mostly unplowed, unshoveled snow to get some groceries (only $14 for all next week, not bad!), and returned home the conquering hero.

And when I finally did make it back home, it was like Christmas all over again! I got a package that I had bought from Ebay, an American Eagle gift card that I got from my credit card rewards, and $1,322 in my bank account from Uncle Sam. Again... Christmas! Unfortunately, that money is not sticking around for very long at all. I am using $1,000 of it to pay for the program deposit for Italy, $137 of it for stupid medical bills that my insurance didn't cover, and putting the rest in my EF. But you know what, I didn't have to take out of savings to cover any of that stuff, and that in itself deserves a little happy dance. That and the fact that I now have food.

Feb 1, 2010

Happy February!

I am so excited that it is February already. Only one more nasty nasty winter month to get through, and then it should lessen up a bit before spring comes!!!! :-)

In the spirit of saving money for my Italy trip, the boy and I had a fun, cheap weekend this time around. We went to Wegman's on Saturday for this free Food and Beer Pairing festival thinger. You didn't have to pay anything and they gave you all kinds of food samples and some beer to go with it. Most of the food was really great, even if the beer was a bit questionable at times. My favorite was this artichoke & asiago cheese dip-- amazing! And we got a free lunch out of the deal. Fri and Sat night we stayed in, cooked dinner and watched movies. It has been a nice long time since I had such a relaxing weekend-- usually I have so much work to do. But this time around there wasn't much at all!

Jan 26, 2010

Taxes are done, biyotches!

I just filed my federal taxes!! WOOT! I am such a nerd, I really love doing taxes. But I am not alone in my nerdyness- we got our W-2's today and everyone in the office was starting to file their taxes right away. Or maybe that's not nerdom, it's just being broke, haha. But I just finished mine, and it looks like my refund will be $1,322!!! That's more than I've ever gotten before, usually I hover around $500-600. So this is definitely awesome. I also e-filed for the first time ever, and so I should have the money direct deposited to me in like 3 weeks or so!! :-D

Jan 22, 2010

Dreaming of Italy... omg

...but the plans have changed. I went to the info session last night... and I decided the Todi program isn't really for me. The town looks amazing, and the trips they have planned are awesome too, but there are some things that turn me off a bit. For instance, you have to live with a family, and they said that many of the families own and operate farms outside of town. I'm def not interested in a farm... PA has enough of those. Also, you have to take studio art classes, and classes go from morning until 6pm every day. Then there are activities with the group almost every weekend, so I feel like I wouldn't get enough flexibility and time on my own to enjoy the place. Not sure I'd like to be stuck with giant groups of 20-year-olds all day and night.

But, luck was with me, because I talked to the language coordinator afterwards, and they offer another program in the south of Italy, in Reggio di Calabria. It's right on the tip of the toe of the boot, right next to Sicily. I would take a language and a culture class, and that's it. The program trips go to Sicily and different islands in the Mediterranean, and also to see old Greek and Roman ruins. Plus I'll get an apartment in the city, and there is a lot more free time to explore the area on your own. I feel like this is a much better fit for me. ESPECIALLY when you see pictures! Basically, I must live there. I've always been insanely jealous of people who live on the coast along the Mediterranean, and now I might get to be one for a few months!

Jan 21, 2010

TGI Thursday!

I have a feeling this semester is going to be wonderful... three day weekends every single weekend. Thursdays are my last day of classes!! :-)

In other news, I decided (on a whim kind of) that I want to study Italian in Italy this summer. I've always wanted to live in Italy, because really, what country could be more perfect?? Our school has a summer program in Todi, which is in Umbria and is completely gorgeous. I talked to the higher-ups, and it sounds like my tuition would be covered!! All I would have to pay for is the program fee, which is around $3,000. I know it's steep for just under two months, but that's for your room, all meals, and also weekend excursions. And really, I know I won't regret it... studying abroad as an undergrad was one of the best things I ever did. Anyways, there is going to be an information session tonight, so I'll find out more then. I so hope this works out!!

Jan 15, 2010

$1,000 NSF Prize!

Have I ever mentioned how much I love free money?? Cuz... I do! Remember how I applied for an NSF grant back in November? Well our graduate school offers anyone who even APPLIES for the grant $1,000. It doesn't matter whether you win or lose! And, lucky me, I finally got the $1,000! It'll deposit in my account on Monday, but I already have grand plans for it. A little is going into my IRA, a little is going towards paying off my student loan, and the rest I'm going to save for a trip to Germany (I hope!!!!) this summer to visit friends in Marburg... back to the town I used to call home! I'm not gonna lie though, I am super tempted to buy some new clothes... but I think I'm gonna have to resist this time around. Sometimes, it's all about priorities.

Jan 10, 2010

2010 here I come!

So, I know my 2010 goals are fashionably late, but I have been creating this list for awhile now and it's just now finally finished. It is my honor to present my list of goals for 2010!

1. Pay student loan down to 14,500
This one is going to be SUPER hard, since I'm at 15,391 currently. I’ll have to scrape to find some money to go towards this.
2. Get EF up to $2,000 (and keep it there!)
Usually my EF fluctuates like crazy, but this time I really want to keep it steady.
3. Put $1,500 more into my Travel Fund

1. Travel to at least THREE new places
...and don't go in the red while doing it!!
2. Get a new tattoo
I’ve been hankering for a new tattoo for a long time, so this will be my year.
3. Read 35 books
I slacked off on my reading like crazy this year, and I want to get back into the habit.
4. Keep my relationship with the boy healthy and happy
I want to keep our relationship amazing way past the “honeymoon stage”.
5. Try out 20 new recipes
6. Only buy (and wear) clothes that I absolutely love
This can also be considered a financial goal, to avoid buying clothes that I don't feel great wearing (and therefore wasting my money).
7. Volunteer this summer.
This summer I'll have loads of extra time, and I want to be productive with that extra time.

1. Eat at least one fruit and vegetable per day
Something which I really do not do and need to start doing. 'Nuff said.
2. Start using organic body products
I have had pretty bad acne for years now, and I read before how some of the chemicals used in shampoos and body washes can aggravate acne. So this year I’m going to go all organic and natural when it comes to these products (lotion too!)

1. Put more effort into teaching
Teaching is not a favorite activity of mine, but I think maybe if I put more effort into it, I might like it more. We’ll see.
2. Attend my first conference
Hoping to get accepted into GLAC in Milwaukee this spring (which will also help me reach my traveling goal!)

And there we are. Wish me luck!

How did I do in 2009?

Well, speaking frankly, 2009 was a pretty shitty year for me. A lot of personal and family problems and hurdles to overcome, so I'm def not sad to see it go. I'm so hoping that the next year will be better. But first, I should review the goals I made last year at this time, and finally put 2009 to rest.

Goal 1. Learn to live within my grad student budget: I think I have more or less been able to do this well. I rarely have to dip into my EF for everyday-type expenses anymore. Having my rent cut by almost 300 bucks really helps with this.
Goal 2. Add an extra $1,000 to my Travel Fund: No... big fail on this one. I actually took money OUT to help pay for my new car. Which brings me to...
Goal 3. Bring my New Car Fund up to $3,000: Again, no. But I did buy my new car, so that means this fund is now more or less obsolete. I gotta think of something new to start saving for now.
Goal 4. Refund my Emergency Fund: Well, yes and no. When the Thompson scholarship came in this summer, I filled the EF back out to a good level... and then drained it again buying furniture for my new place, paying car insurance bills, and doctor appointment bills that my insurance won't cover. So now it's back at dangerously low levels again.

Well, the goals I made for myself didn't quite pan out, but then again, I'm not too depressed about it. A lot can happen in a year. I mean, in January I never thought in a million years I'd get to buy a new car, so all the planning I did then didn't quite map up to real life. It's not going to stop me from making new goals though for this year!

Jan 7, 2010

Back from MN!

Just got back from my vacation to Minnesota yesterday, and damn, it looks like I got back just in time!! I mean, it was basically a frozen wasteland as it is, -27 degrees some days! It was a bit of a bummer to be stuck inside a lot, since I wanted to go ice skating and sledding and other cool wintery outside things, but the weather just did not cooperate at all. It was still fun and still worth it though! I got to meet the boy's crazy parents and friends (and grandparents and aunts and uncles...), see a new place, and experience cold like I've never felt before (hah!). My favorite parts: riding on the roller coasters inside the Mall of America (something that's been on my "to-do" list for years!!!!) and New Years Eve. We had the best of both worlds for New Years-- watched the ball drop on TV from the nice cozy couch and then went out for the second New Years since it's an hour behind the east coast. We saw this really awesome rock band, and it wasn't too crowded so we could actually dance and goof off. It was really perfect. :-)

As far as expenses go, I did really well. I got $120 cash for Christmas and just used that for my expenses on the trip, and still came ten bucks under! I'm super pumped about this-- it means I don't have to take any money out of my Travel Fund to pay for the trip (besides the $200 I took out way back to pay for the plane ticket in the first place)! Victory is mine! ;-)