Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bloggy Secret Santa-Thank You!

I am just now getting to this, but I participated in the Bloggy Secret Santa, hosted by Serendipity. It was so fun to get to know bloggers by both giving an receiving. I got mine a few weeks before Christmas. I was so excited!

I opened the card and saw that my gift was from Sharon at Musings of a Midlife Mom. I really enjoy her blog...it focuses on "living more and spending less."

I tore open the package and saw two great gifts inside:
I got this adorable stationary set! It goes great on my desk at work, and it's nice to have something pretty, inspirational, and useful for work.  I love the color-scheme too!
She also got me this awesome set of mini-lip glosses from Ulta! I love the variety in colors, and they're perfect to slip into my purse to take with me! I even returned my unopened lip gloss I bought at Sephora because I was so excited about these!

So, though this is late, a huge thank you to Sharon for the great gifts, and to Serendipity for organizing the exchange...I'll definitely be participating again next year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Being Practical with Gift Cards

For Christmas, some of my people were very generous, and I received some gift cards. My grandma got me $50 from Marshalls, one of my aunts got me $25 to Amazon, boyfriend got me $15 to Starbucks, and my boyfriend's dad got me $40 to AMC.

AMC will obviously be used for date nights. We went once already, and are planning to hit up one of the movies before noon ($6 per ticket) before the break is over to use the balance. Ideally I wanted to use it all on matinees, but we were out in LA the other day and needed something to do to avoid traffic for a few hours, so there went $27 of the card. I can't remember the last time I went to a non-discounted movie, and I remembered why when I saw that balance. BF also has a free ticket from giving blood, so we could combine it with that to go to an evening movie as well.

I went to Marshalls yesterday and got some new kitchen knives (mine are from Ikea and they're ATROCIOUS). These knives are colorful and high quality. I am so enjoying using them already! We also needed new hand soap for the bathroom. I had planned to hit up the Bath and Body Works sale, but instead found two bottles on clearance at Marshalls and used my gift card. They smell good and I like having something nicer than Dial in the bathroom. I snagged a few pairs of underwear as well, and still have $7 left on the card. I think I'll use it to get some scrapbooking stuff I saw. I do a scrapbook project for a novel we read in my English class in the Spring, and it will be nice to spend a little less out of my own pocket on the materials. I like that I got something I've been wanting (knives), something I need (soap), and something that I needed, but that is also fun to buy (cute underwear).

I'm going to combine the Amazon gift card with Swagbucks gift cards, and hopefully buy the Playstation Move bundle from Amazon. This is the starter set so you can play all the dance games on PS3, which would be super fun. Boyfriend mentioned splitting it...I might go with that, or if I can turbo charge my Swagbucking, get it for us for Valentine's Day. I think it's something fun we could do together at home, and I'm dying to try the Michael Jackson game. :) I think this is a good balance of using it for something fun (which I think my aunt would prefer), but also being practical and using it to save money on a bigger purchase/gift.

The Starbucks card? I'm hoping to meet up with a friend to hang out next week, and plan to suggest that we meet at Starbucks. This will save me money because I'm not spending money eating out, like we normally would. I may also use it in the next few days when BF and I go away overnight to go to Magic Mountain together. We shall see.

BF was teasing me, saying they must be burning a hole in my pocket...and it's true, I do tend to spend my gift cards ASAP! I love shopping, and it's fun to do it guilt-free. I've also made a game out of seeing how I can use them to save money from my regular budget.

Did you get Christmas gift cards? How did you use them?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2012 Goals

I am loving reading everyone's goal recaps for 2011 and new goals for 2012! It's inspiring, and I think people are making a good combination of challenging yet realistic goals for 2012. Here are mine (action plan to follow in another post):

Financial
1. Fully fund Emergency Fund (six months expenses).
2. Max out Roth IRA using a monthly contribution.
3. Become DEBT FREE by my 30th birthday (just student loan left!)
4. Save $5,000 in a down payment fund.

Health
1. Run a 5k in under 30 minutes
2. Drink more water.
3. Use Play Station Active 2 regularly to tone up.
4. Go to a class at the gym once a month.

Personal/Professional
1. Work on communication with BF using Weekly "Relationship Check-ins."
2. Go to church service of some type once a month.
3. Work on not losing my temper with my students, even when there are over 40 in a class and they seem to be trying to piss me off.
4. Complete 92 hours in order to earn my National Board Stipend.

Travel
1. Plan trip with BF this summer using National Boards Stipend.
2. Take a trip to visit or go somewhere new with Shelley (I haven't told her this yet, but I miss her face!).
3. Visit at least one baseball stadium I've never been to (definitely San Diego, maybe also Arizona?)
4. Go wine tasting again (we talk about it all the time, need to MAKE IT HAPPEN!)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Online Rewards Review: Disney Movie Rewards

This is a post in my series about different online rewards sites.

Early on in my frugal days, I stumbled upon Disney Movie Rewards thanks to The Freebie Blogger. I saw various codes listed on there, and decided to register and enter them. I am not sure, in hindsight, if these were allowed to be shared as they were, so I can't technically recommend that you use the codes on that site. However, since then I have been above board in all my point earnings, and I'm still able to get some goodies that way.

I believe the idea is that when you buy various Disney movies, there are codes that come in the packaging. If you redeem the codes, you earn points. I rarely buy Disney movies, so that first glance, this one seems silly for me to join. Here's how I make it work for me anyway:

1. Their monthly newsletter has a code worth 5 points.
2. They occasionally have quizzes or freebie points that they email out. I still check The Freebie Blogger for points that seem legit and open to everyone, not just those who purchase movies.
3. The 25 days before Christmas, ABC Family has a code for 5 points on their site every. single. day. Score! You just have to remember to go to the site each day and click on the link. I haven't remembered every day, but I have snagged 80 points just this month. Yes, I'm a jackass for posting this as the December points are ending. Should've done this on the first, I know.
4. If you take photos of Disney movies you see in the theater, you can upload pictures of your ticket stubs and get 50 points per ticket. I plan on seeing The Muppets any day now, so I'll definitely use this feature soon!

Last year I used my points to get a free calendar from Snapfish. This year I'm still saving, but I am a fan of the different rewards available from Snapfish. I'm currently at 430 points, and my goal is to get all of my Christmas cards next year for free using this site (I would need 1100 points to get 40 free cards from Snapfish). They also have plenty of Disney merchandise, but that's not really my thing, so I stick with Snapfish rewards.

This isn't the most amazing site in the world, but it's easy to earn the points-usually just a click, not even reading much information. Definitely one of the easiest rewards sites.

Anyone else use Disney Movie Rewards? Have you gotten any cool prizes that I'm missing out on by only focusing on Snapfish?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Living the Good Life

Today I went on a run through my neighborhood and down to the beach path. As I came down the hill where I could see the sparkling ocean in the 75 degree sunshine, this song came on my ipod. The chorus made me smile and realize that despite whatever little things get to me, this is a good, good life.


Merry Christmas, and may you focus on the good in your life and in this world as you celebrate.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Online Rewards Review: Recyclebank

Today I'm going to talk about a rewards program online that I've been doing for the past year or so. Most of us know about Swagbucks (and if you're not using that one, you really should be. Amazon gift cards, people!). I've also dabbled in Inbox Dollars and Disney Movie Rewards. Today I am going to talk about Recyclebank, and in the next few weeks I'll review some other reward sites I've tried out.

Recyclebank is a website that promotes not only recycling, but all sorts of ways to go green. The basic premise is that you can earn points for recycling (if your community supports it) and also for taking various pledges or quizzes about living the green lifestyle online.

My community doesn't participate in the recycling portion of this site (though we do have curbside recycling pickup, and we participate in it each week), but I have earned plenty of points by going on their website and educating myself about how to go green. You can cash in points for various coupons, which I did once. Right now, I'm saving up for a $10 Panera gift card. They also have gift cards to Home Depot, Best Buy, iTunes, and Walmart. A $10 gift card to any of these places is 2500 points.

If you decide to sign up, I recommend going to "Green Your Seasons," where you can earn a few hundred points right away by going through the whole year's worth. There are also plenty of other ways to earn...I earned over 100 points today by taking quizzes on composting, committing to recycle electronics, and a few other simple things.

This is not the most lucrative rewards program out there...you're not going to be bathing in gift cards or anything*, but I think it's worth my time to do some simple activities online that will eventually lead to rewards. I'm on my computer a lot anyway, so clicking over for a few minutes is no big deal to me.

Does anyone else use Recyclebank?

*If your community can get the recycling rewards, maybe you would be. ;)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011 Goals-How'd I Do?

Time to recap my 2011 goals...I actually did pretty well overall, so this is a satisfying post to write:


2011 Goals

I'm actually a huge fan of New Year's Resolutions...I like lists and goals and feeling accomplished. So, here are my goals for 2011.

1. Pay off my car!
CHECK! I paid off my car in July. It's GREAT not to have that liability anymore.

2. Increase amount I am contributing to my retirement accounts to 10% of my income. Nope. But, I am setting up an automatic Roth IRA deduction each month for 2012, so this should happen next year.

3. Increase the amount I pay toward my student loans by $100 per month as soon as my car is paid off. CHECK! I now pay an extra $300 per month, so that I can be debt free by 30!

4. Finish and PASS National Boards. CHECK! My extra pay for that should start coming in January. Yessssss.

5. Get a raise via salary points by the end of this school year. CHECK! I got a raise last May.

6. Start a travel fund so that I can begin to save up for a bigger trip in the next couple of years. Nope.

7. Put less than 8,000 miles on my car. Nope. I put close to 10,000 miles on it. 

I guess I only accomplished 4 out of 7 of my goals, but I feel good about those ones and where I'm at right now. I've been working on my 2012 goals, and I'm excited to share them and get started on them. It's been amazing to see where I started two and a half years ago to where I am today. I went from living in debts of all sorts, to having my sights set on being debt free. I went from having zero savings to being more than halfway to a six month emergency fund. 

If you're struggling with your finances, wondering if you can do it...you can! It's not easy and it takes planning and some sacrifice. But the end result feels amazing, and I wouldn't trade more stuff for the feeling of security that I have now. I don't stress about money anymore. I think about it a lot, but because it's now interesting to me, not because I'm worried about it. My goals are exciting, and the feeling of meeting them puts a smile on my face.

How did you do on your 2011 goals?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's Gettin' Hot in Here

Last year, I lived in the most freezing cold apartment you can imagine. I could literally see my breath in my room at times. The heater was useless, and though my aunt gave me a space heater, I used it sparingly in my cheapness. I slept with several blankets, knee socks, flannel pants, and a hoodie.

This year, my apartment is a lot better, though obviously it still gets cold at night. Since I don't live alone and boyfriend is not down with being freezing to, "save five cents a day or whatever" we have been setting the space heater to sixty-five and leaving it on for the night. It's a good balance, since it doesn't run constantly, but keeps us from waking up to a bedroom in the low fifties.

Normally, our electric bill is about $21. I pay it, and boyfriend pays the city bill (gas, water, trash). This month, our bill was $31.

I had a moment of well-behaved PF blogger reaction: "What! Ten more bucks! I'm going to run around the house and unplug everything that could be using electricity! No more space heater!"

Then I thought for a second and changed my reaction. "Well, it's winter, and it makes sense we'd spend a little more to stay warm. Ten bucks is not the end of the world."

Guys, I'm changing. With my Christmas splurges and shopping for myself this month, I feel it. And I'm okay with it.

In order to get out of $20,000 of debt in two years, I got serious. I banned clothes shopping. I regifted like crazy. I made my own birthday cards. I tried to convince friends NOT to exchange gifts to save money. I unplugged everything, all the time. I sold tons of stuff on Ebay and Amazon. I took on any extra paid duties at work that I could get my hands on. And I'm proud of those actions. It felt good to be aggressive in getting out of debt, since I was certainly not passive in getting into it.

But now, I think I'm striving to find balance. I'm still paying ahead on my student loan, and I have some ambitious goals for 2012. But I'm okay with buying myself some new clothes now and then. I want to be able to surprise friends with thoughtful gifts from time to time. I don't want to freeze all winter to save ten bucks a month.

I'm still budgeting each month, and tracking my spending. But I think 2012 is going to be the year of balance. How can I save and make good financial choices that are sustainable in the long-term? Yes, I will go without luxuries in order to reach the goals, but what are the extras that are worth it to me? What are the things I can spend on that will bring happiness to myself and to others?

That, along with my specific financial goals, is what I want to focus on this year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Spendy Spend Spend

That's what I should call this month.

Originally I had plans to just do homemade gifts for everyone, and spend a shockingly small amount on Christmas gifts. And I'm still making the homemade stuff. But then, I realized that I wanted to be a little more generous with my family. I make more than some members of my family and boyfriend, and refusing to buy them gifts just seemed cheap, not frugal. Especially when I knew they'd be buying me things. In years past, I was vigorously paying off my debt and getting my house in order. And I don't feel bad about going small those years. But this year, I have a little more wiggle room. So I decided to wiggle.

I know it's not all about spending money on those you love, but frankly after spending quite a bit of money on myself this month (Uggs, makeup, jeans, Toms shoes, a scarf and a sweater), I thought it was sort of ridiculous that I wouldn't spend money on those I love.

So, I did. I didn't go crazy and spend a jillion dollars. That's not how my family rolls. But I went out of my way to pick out some things that I thought they would like/think they need. Nothing's on my credit card, and I have been tracking my spending. I'm also not doing any saving this month, though I did pay an extra $300 to my student loan.

I can't say what I bought here (they read the blog, and Christmas still hasn't arrived), but I'm looking forward to giving gifts on Sunday, both the homemade ones and the extras I bought over the last few weeks.


Did you stay small on Christmas shopping, or splurge? According to the news, it seems more Americans splurged than in the last two years...are you one of them?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Tire Drama

Last week my boyfriend and I were heading to happy hour. When he got in the car he said, "your tire is flat." I assumed he meant it needed air, so we stopped at a gas station.

Nope, totally flat.

Boyfriend was less than thrilled to be changing it because perhaps he had mentioned that he saw a small bulge in the tire several months ago and that I needed to take care of it. And maybe I didn't and just kept driving on it.

Okay, he did mention it and I didn't deal with it. So he had to change my tire in the rain. Oops.

But, we made it through that night, he put on my spare, and I looked up tire shops on Yelp. A local shop got great reviews, so I went there. I also looked up prices for my tire ahead of time to get an idea of what it would cost. I was expecting about $200 each, and knew I might also need new tires for all of them.

The shop was awesome. The guy told me I needed two new tires in the front. I asked if he meant three, since I'd need a spare as well. He said he could take one of the old ones and make it my spare, since all it needs to do is hold air. Duh. I appreciated his honesty, since I totally would have bought another tire from him. He said they warranty all their tires and if I didn't care about brand (I certainly don't) he could get me both tires for $320. Nice!

They didn't have my tires that day, so they also gave me a free rental for the next day while they worked on my tires. I paid $5 for an upgrade to a nicer rental (I splurged, what can I say), and bought the extra insurance on the rental just in case. The total for the rental was about $20.

Obviously this wasn't my favorite way to spend $340, but I feel like I was treated well and got a good deal on my tires. I would definitely go back to the shop again!

As far as my finances, I used the money I had planned to use for my 75,000 maintenance to cover the tires, so my E-fund is intact. But, I still need to do the maintenance, so we'll see how that goes. I budgeted for my car insurance bill to come this month, though it may not show up 'til January. If that's the case, I can take care of the maintenance on December's paycheck. If not, I'll wait another week and do it in January. I'd really like to avoid the E-fund, since new tires and maintenance are things I should plan for, not real emergencies.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Countdown to Break

Five more days.

That's what we were all saying to each other as we walked around campus this morning before school. Just make it through this week and it's vacation. And it means we made it to Christmas break without having nervous breakdowns. Well, without having nervous breakdowns that we didn't recover from.

Right now my students are working on Powerpoint presentations on the school laptops, so I'm sneaking in a blog post. Grades are due tomorrow. The holiday breakfast is tomorrow morning. I need to make tags for the books my partner teachers and I got the kids for Christmas. I need to finish the banner for honor roll. And about a million things to do at home as well.

Boyfriend and I were going to get a Christmas tree yesterday. But then we got into a fight, and fighting doesn't really ay, "let's go get a tree together and decorate it." But if we don't go soon, I feel like we should just skip it this year. This is WAY later than I normally get a tree. We'll see if we want to do that tonight. If not...IDK.

I'm almost done shopping, but I need to order one or two more things online.

Basically, this is a check-in post. I'm hoping to post again this week, but we'll see if I manage that. I need to catch up on tracking my spending and rediscover some of my frugal ways that I've let go by the wayside over the past few weeks. And I need to post about my awesome Blogger Secret Santa gift!

Anyway, just checking in. How's everyone else hanging in there as we get closer to Christmas?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Shop-a-palooza

I'm home sick from work today...I've been sick all week, but have been toughing it out to go to work. Finally I decided to take a day off to stay home, sleep, rest, and cough in peace.

Anyway, thanks for weighing in on my ethical question. I talked to another co-worker who said that she thinks he probably did get paid, and that I shouldn't worry about it. I decided that if he asks, I'll split it, otherwise it's mine to keep.

So then I spent it all. On myself.

First, I headed over to Zappos.com and found a pair of Uggs. I've wanted Uggs for YEARS, and finally decided to go for it. I bought the biggest youth size, which saved me about $30. My boyfriend's cousin works there, so we also got to use her discount, bringing the total down to $88. SCORE!

They came last night, and I tore the box open and wore them around the house last night. Freddie asked if I was going to wear them to bed. I considered it, to be honest. They're so soft and warm. I want to wear them everyday.

Next, I went to Nordstrom.com and checked out the selection of Toms. Mine are wearing out (getting a hole in the big toe, like all my canvas shoes do). I decided to get the Carpe Diem ones. Because I want my feet to feel inspired. These were about $60 with tax. I'm still waiting for these to arrive, but I think they'll be a lot of fun to wear.
Robin Williams would be proud.

Last, I headed over to Sephora.com and picked out some new makeup. I got Bare Escentuals again, after using liquid foundation for a year or so. But that's the boring part. I also got a lip gloss set by Smashbox and an eyeshadow/blush palette by Stila. I am SO excited for these to arrive. I'm going to clean out my makeup case and get rid of some stuff I never wear to make room for my new additions. I love Stila eye shadow, a little goes a long way and it has a nice shimmer. I spent $96 for all three items at Sephora. I also found a coupon code for a Hello Kitty clutch and 12 extra samples with my order, so those will be fun to get too.

If I feel up to it later, I'm going to go and work on some Christmas shopping for other people, now that I've shopped a ton for myself. It was fun to pick out some new things for myself with my stipend, and even more fun that it didn't come out of my regular budget.

Have you done any splurging on yourself this season?

Monday, December 5, 2011

$250 Ethical Question

Tonight I came home and had a check for $250 waiting for me. I had no idea what it was from, until I Swagbucks'ed the company. I realized that it's my stipend for having a student teacher this semester. Score! I knew I'd get paid, but I forgot about it so this is a nice surprise.

Here's my ethical question. I shared the responsibilities of having a student teacher with a co-worker of mine. My student teacher split class time evenly between us, however he did all of his videos, interviews, and coursework in my class. We filmed weekly planning videos and did an exit interview together. The other teacher didn't do that part. For that reason I'm pretty sure that I am the only one who got paid, and not my co-worker. The videos and filmed planning sessions weren't a ton of work or anything, but it was an extra responsibility that fell to me.

So, do I have an obligation to split the money with my co-worker? Of course I'm tempted to keep my mouth shut and not ask about if he got paid. If he did, great, if he didn't I don't need to know. I did do a bit more work than he did, and the student teacher chose me to be the one to help him with his class requirements, but I'd feel gipped if the roles were reversed since he taught with both of us.

I haven't decided what to do, and I do think it's a gray area...so readers, weigh in. To share or not to share?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Screw It

Today's payday! Holla! I went ahead and paid the extra $300 on my student loan right away. And if I'm super crazy strict all month, I could save another $700 in my E-fund.

But we're talking super strict. As in, homemade gifts, regifting, freebies, not going in with my co-teachers for a gift for all the kids. Not buying new running shoes, even though I need them. Not taking my car in for it's 75,000 mile service. Not eating out as much, or going to Magic Mountain with my boyfriend. Basically being cheap.

I decided that I just don't wanna. (Yes, that's meant to sound whiny). I am tired of being super disciplined. I want some new jeans. I want to splurge on some Christmas presents. I want to bring good food to parties, not whatever was cheapest to make.

So, I'm taking that $700 and enjoying myself this month. The 75,000 mile check up isn't exactly fun, but I've been putting it off because I don't want to budget for it. That's the other responsible thing I'll be doing, but I'm giving myself permission to get a little spendy this month. No debt. Nothing too crazy. But I'm throwing off the shackles for this month. I've been disciplined for a LONG time. My E-fund is growing nicely, my student loan is shrinking. I'm cool with saying "screw it" and just spending the money.

Do you ever let yourself "fall off the wagon?"

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Did I Just Categorize Running as FUN???

I'm telling you, I hardly recognize myself these days.

Last week on Thanksgiving I did the Turkey Trot here in Long Beach. It's a super cool 5k on the beach, where people dress up. Very family friendly and fun vibe. I ran it with my friend Elaine, and set a new personal record of 32:21 for 5k. :) That beats my old time by 3:26, which made me very happy! (I'll post pictures when I get my camera back from my mom's house, I left it there on accident.)

I have NEVER been a runner. I literally did not think it was possible for me to run three miles. One of my earliest school memories is running in Kindergarten and coming in last place. But I've completed two 5k's now, and it definitely makes me feel good about myself. It's a challenge everytime, but the feeling of finishing the race without stopping to walk AND beating my old time made me want to keep signing up.

So, on Sunday I signed up for two more races. One is called Fast and Furious. It's a super cheap one in Long Beach on December 17th. Only $15! No medals or t-shirts, but I'm fine with that. I just want a reason to keep training and a chance to best my former time. I also signed up for the Long Beach Pajama 5k on February 11th. I'm doing that one with a friend from college who just had a baby. I think it will be fun, and again it gives me a reason to keep training. That one is $35.

I decided to fit both races into my November budget. One of them came out of my "cushion" that I set aside for unexpected expenses. The other came out of my fun budget.

Fun. As in, I sacrificed a dinner out or some new clothes to pay for a 5k.

Who am I, you guys?

But, I really am starting to enjoy running. It doesn't mean all my workouts are pretty, or that I always feel like going running after work. But I'm sort of hooked on the feeling I get after I do something I didn't know I had in me.

That feeling is similar to how I first felt when I successfully stuck to a budget. It's how I felt when I managed to go a whole year without shopping and get my credit card paid off for good.

A while back, BF said that if I can be as disciplined as I am with my finances, he knew I could take up running. I told him that was ridiculous, and that they were totally unrelated. And in some ways, they are. But I think the satisfaction of accomplishment translates. My competitive nature helps me succeed in both. The runner's high is similar to the budgeter's high. Or the debt-payer-offer's high. They both take a lot of work, and aren't inherently fun. But when you get to the payoff, they have their own appeal.

So, I encourage you, dear readers. Try something challenging that you're not sure if you can do. Believe that you can. Get through those first crappy weeks, where you hate it and you feel like it will never get better. Because it will. And the payoff is totally worth it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

No Spend November Update: Week 4

I did pretty awesome with no spends this week...I'll do a final post to see if I pulled off my eleven days...it will be incredibly close, but possible. Anyway, here's the info:

Tuesday: Bought stuff at Target, stuff for Thanksgiving, and two new long-sleeved workout shirts. Definitely not a no spend, but a good night for shopping.
Wednesday: NO SPEND! Came home after work and watched West Wing with the BF.
Thursday: Stopped and bought flowers and picked up some last minute Thanksgiving items for my mom.
Friday: NO SPEND! I gave blood in the morning, then hung out with BF's dad who took us out to dinner. BF bought me coffee on the way home.
Saturday: NO SPEND! Lazed around, then brought Thanksgiving leftovers to a party, along with a bottle of vodka I had in the freezer.
Sunday: Big time spending. Gas, pharmacy, car wash, groceries, out to dinner with friend, brought BF coffee at work. I also paid for two more 5k's.
Monday: NO SPEND! BF made quiche for breakfast, I made a pot roast in the crock pot for dinner. Went on a run and then watched more West Wing after dinner.

Because I was able to pull off FOUR no spend days this week, I am up to ten! YES! I have two more days left in the month, so as long as one of them is No Spend (which is totally do-able), then I will make my goal! I'll give an update after the 30th and make my new No Spend goal for December.

Anyone else manage some No Spend Days? Or did Black Friday get you? :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dabbling in Stocks

I saw that ING Direct was offering a $100 bonus through Sharebuilder if you opened an account this weekend and made two trades by the end of January. I know very, very little about stocks, but I decided to take the plunge and try to earn $100 (and maybe more if my stocks do well).

I transfered $50 from my ING Savings into a Sharebuilder account. I signed up for a free trial of their premium service so that I could make investments for only $1 (gotta remember to cancel is before January 1st!). I took a survey indicating that I was conservative about investing (more afraid of losing money than excited about earning it), and it suggested two investments. I set it up to make the trades on Tuesday. Since it's two investments, I'm hoping that counts for my two trades. I'll have to double check on that though.

The way I figure is that even if I lose all $50 (which is doubtful), I will still end up $50 ahead thanks to the bonus. I'm honestly planning on closing the account once the bonus posts to my account, since the whole stocks thing makes me nervous. Maybe I'll keep dabbling and let that $50 investment ride, but we'll see how it goes.

Anyone else done Sharebuilder before? I'd love some insight or advice on how to make it work for me!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

My Financial Bucket List

Krystal at Give Me Back My Five Bucks is doing a giveaway on her blog for $500, thanks to Life Insurance Finder. I liked that blogging about this giveaway had a fun topic, so I'm actually doing this one in hopes of winning that $500. The topic: What's on your financial bucket list?

1. Pay off my student loans, which would make me debt free!
2. Get my six month E-fund fully funded (I'm more than halfway there!)
3. Get in the habit of fully-funding my Roth IRA (this starts in January)
4. Pay for a wedding without raiding my E-fund. No, I'm not engaged, but if we're talking bucket list, this is on there for sure.
5. Buy a home.
6. I want a pair of Uggs, but I can never bring myself to spend the money on them. Maybe this will be my 2012 reward if I meet all my goals.
7. Another trip to Europe, to see some of the countries I've yet to travel to.
8. Travel to every state in the US, and visit every Major League Baseball Stadium (okay, this is BF's bucket list item, but I've adopted it).
9. Buy something really nice for my mom (can't say what, she reads this. And it won't be tomorrow, but someday...)
10. Get BF out of debt...but this be my territory until after we combine our finances...for now gentle encouragement will have to do.

And if I win the $500, I'll be that much closer to my goals. :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Target Victory!

Today I am pleased with my expenditures at Target...so impressed that I have decided to blog about it.

I had to return a conditioner that I bought because I remembered that I tried that brand and didn't like it. I also decided to return a foundation, because I am thinking of switching to Bare Minerals/Everyday Minerals again after my liquid foundation runs out. I got $19.55 back.

Also, a coworker paid me $20 for the fridge I bought for our academy several months ago. She was out on maternity leave, so I didn't expect to get it. I'm counting this as extra money, since it was extra from my budget.

So, I started out with a credit of $39.55. Here's how I got everything I needed, with three bucks to spare.

The shampoo and conditioner I planned to get were buy three, get a $5 gift card. So, I picked up an extra bottle of shampoo. I did this as one transaction and spent $15.19 and got a gift card back. In my next transaction I got my student teacher a $20 gift card as a going away gift. I also got stuffing mix for 89 cents, butter for $2.99, and cottage cheese for $2.69 (all ingredients for Thanksgiving meals). I used the $5 gift card, and spent a total of $21.57.

Then, I decided to swing by Marshalls and use my gift card...I was on a roll.

I need a couple of long sleeved shirts for running, so I got two of them at Marshalls. One is white and comes down over my hands with a slot for my thumbs. Which is fun. The other is bright pink and has a hood. They're both very visible at night and warm, which is good since most of my running is on the beach at night. I spent $11 out of my pocket for the two shirts, which I'm happy with.

So, last night was not a No Spend one, but I only spent eight bucks net, and stuck with necessities. Shopping Success!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Blue Light Special

This weekend I went to Ralph's, and as usual when I got to the meat department, I scanned to aisle for any packages marked down as "Manager's Special." That yellow and orange sticker makes my day! I bought some ribs, marked down to $3.48 (they were six something), chicken marked down to $4.44 (also originally six something). The beef roasts were on sale (50% off!) so I snagged a pot roast and some stew meat at a discount as well. SCORE!

I made the ribs in the crock pot last night, and they were great (Just threw them in with onion, BBQ sauce, salt and pepper). I made the chicken tonight and made corn tortilla quesadillas and beans. I think I'll wait for after Thanksgiving for the pot roast, since I don't want to go into the holiday with leftovers.

It's nice to stock up on meat when it's on sale. I know some people are squeamish about the manager's special thing...it's meat that's about to go bad. But I put it in the freezer as soon as I get home, and I've never had a problem with it. I find that I definitely cook at home more often if I have meat on hand. I can usually improvise some side dishes from the pantry (I don't have a pantry. I have random cupboards that overflow. But you know what I mean), which means I am more likely to cook without making another grocery store trip.

I also get salads that are on clearance-as long as I eat them within a day or two, they are fine also. This saves money and makes me try things I might no otherwise buy. I've gotten loaves of bread for 99 cents for the past three weeks as well. I keep my bread in the fridge, so I don't notice a difference after I toast it.

Do you buy items on Manager's Special? How do you get bargains at the grocery store?

Monday, November 21, 2011

No Spend November Week 3

Here's the recap on how many No Spend Days I had last week...

Tuesday: Michael's for craft supplies for Christmas presents. Spent around $40.
Wednesday: Book club, bought Panera for dinner. Spent around ten bucks.
Thursday: No spend! I had parent conferences, so this was a crazy long day at work. BF made dinner, and I didn't really have time to spend anyway.
Friday: Dinner out with BF, $29
Saturday: Grocery store-spent $90, but meat and soda were on sale, so I stocked up. BF paid for the drive-in since I drove.
Sunday: $20 worth of gas in my car. $20 for tickets to the LA Auto Show. BF loves going. I also paid $4 for parking.
Monday: No spend!

So, once again I only came up with two No Spend Days. This brings my grand total for the month up to six. :/ I need to come up with five more days in the next nine days. Eek! Tomorrow's out as I need to get a gift for my student teacher whose last day is Wednesday. But I think I can pull off a no spend Wednesday and Thursday, and I'm pretty determined to make the other three happen. I do think I saved money this month, since I held off on lots of little things to make the no spends happen. I only stopped for breakfast on the way to work once this month, which is a vast improvement from last month's laziness.

Anyone else doing No Spend goals? How are they going?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Drumroll Please...

As of this morning, I am officially a National Board Certified Teacher!

Boo-ya!

This process took me three tries (and this overachiever is NOT used to failing), involved four portfolios including videos and student work, six assessments, and some tears. It's an accomplishment I'm proud of, and it comes with a few perks.

I will get an automatic 7.5% raise, starting in the next month or two. If I am able to complete 92 more hours of professional development (as in running it, not going to it), I also get a lump sum of another 7.5% during the summer.

This means good things for my budget, but I've yet to sit down and plan it out. I'll post about it when I see what my check looks like when the money's actually there. For now, I am celebrating my hard work and daydreaming about the massage I plan to get with the money for this first month.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Free Samples

I've come to the conclusion that free samples really can add up to save you money. At the end of October I ran out of both shampoo and conditioner. I feel like now that I have longer hair, I'm definitely going through them faster, so I wasn't quite ready to spend money on my expensive brand (close to $20 each).

I went through my sample stash and found some of the same brand in sample size from my hair dresser. I used those first. Then I went on to my Aveda samples. Now I'm breaking into some samples I got from a Target giveaway. I'm user Tresamme, which advertises that it has "less sulfates" so I'm okay with that for now. I think I have enough sample stuff stashed away that I can get through November without buying more shampoo and conditioner.

Yes, I'll have to buy it eventually. And in the grand scheme of things going one month without buying shampoo and conditioner isn't going to make or break me. But, I do think that if you take advantage of samples whenever you can, it really does add up over time. I find most of my samples from The Freebie Blogger, which I check about once a week to see if there's anything worth requesting.

Where do you get your free samples?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thanks, ING!

I checked my ING account today, and noticed that my $50 bonus for opening a checking account with them had posted. Hurrah!

I pretty much just use my ING account as a house down payment fund. That is pretty much not getting funded at all right now, so it was fun to see a boost in there, especially since it was free money! I now have $116 in my house fund. Things are getting crazy over there!

Just kidding.

But I am all about the free money. And I like ING, so I'm glad to have an account with them. I moved the money from the checking to my savings, so it can earn at least some interest while it sits there. And sit it will, until my six month E-fund is fully funded.

Have you ever gotten a bonus like that? What did you use it for?

Monday, November 14, 2011

No Spend Days in November: Week 2

I only had one No Spend Day last week. :/ Not amazing, but I have high hopes for this week! Here's the recap-

Tuesday: Stopped at store to get dinner stuff, had friends over to eat and craft.
Wednesday: This would have been no spend, except the $20 I had to spend at the dentist. Stupid dentist.
Thursday: Happy hour to celebrate three day weekend. Holla! I also bought a coffee from 7-11 that morning. $1.89, and I could have just had free coffee at work. I'm lame.
Friday: Lunch with sister and then more craft supplies at Michael's.
Saturday: Paid $25 to watch my cousin cheer and be on Homecoming Court at Cal State Long Beach's basketball game. Then went out to dinner with my family, spending another $25. Expensive, but I'm glad I went.
Sunday: Finally, a no spend! Watched BF run half marathon, came home and ate soup for lunch. I'm sick, so BF actually brought it to me on a tray in bed...after he ran a half marathon. I'm lucky, people. Then we went to Jamba where I used a gift card and then to dinner at his family's house. Hurray for FINALLY getting a No Spend in there!
Monday: Stopped at grocery store to pick up spaghetti sauce and milk, $48 later, I left the store. But I got stuff we'll eat, and lots of lunch stuff so I won't be tempted to spend throughout the week.

Yes, only one day. This brings me up to four days total for the month. Not quite on pace, but I plan to have at least two days this week, which would put me back on pace.

Again, I find that I'm less likely to go for little splurges...I only had one last week, and I regretted it as soon as it passed. So hopefully that will stay with me, and I'll be more diligent about my spending.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Getting Crafty

I am not historically known as being good at crafts. I remember doing art projects in elementary school and getting super frustrated. I would imagine an amazing picture, and then start to work. My actual picture would look very little like what I had in my mind. I would get super upset that it wasn't perfect/good, and either cry or just quit. 

It's called gifted child syndrome. If I can't make it perfect, I won't do it at all.

This extended to crafts in high school, college, and beyond. If the example looked a certain way, mine had to look that way too. It's a character flaw of mine. I am a terrible learner if I don't catch on right away. This also applies to all athletic endeavors.

Last weekend, my friends Alyssa and Shelby invited me to a crafts fair. I went to go check things out, knowing I wouldn't buy anything. Alyssa and I got to talking, and I mentioned I knew how to make one of the simple crafts (which is now a Christmas present for my family, so I can't disclose what it is.) She got excited, so off we went to Michael's to buy the supplies. We made the craft, and as we worked I apologized for the little mistakes I made. Her response: "It doesn't have to be perfect, that's part of the fun of making it yourself. People will know it's homemade."

Duh. It doesn't have to be perfect. I actually had fun making a craft. The end product was pretty decent, and they came out good enough that it inspired me to try another project this weekend. This one was also pretty simple, but I am finding it satisfying to make something myself. I am choosing simple enough ideas that I can't get too frustrated, but I'm also okay with a little imperfection. 

I'm growing here, people. And I've decided to make my family's gifts for Christmas (four women). Depending on who I get for bloggy Secret Santa, they may get something homemade as well. It's a new step for me, I think they'll actually like what I make, and it's pretty frugal as well. :) I am taking lots of pictures, so after Christmas I can post my creations.

Do you do crafts? Have you ever had a DIY Christmas?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Can't Pull the Trigger

I just went to my various accounts, trying to make myself transfer the money from my savings into my checking so that I could make a $2,500 payment to my student loan. I had both screens pulled up and ready to go.

I couldn't pull the trigger.

Maybe because I've flip-flopped on what to do. Maybe because seeing over $6,000 in my savings is so satisfying I don't want to move it. Maybe because my student loan has never bothered me all that much.

I just can't do it.

Here's a crazy idea. What if I just leave that money in my savings and build my E-fund now. As in, six month E-fund goal? Check! I have it now. I could pay my $300 payment to my loan to accelerate it a little, but put the rest of my money toward my savings. Once it's funded, I can start my house fund. Yes, I'd still have a student loan. A low-interest loan, which right now is an $81 per month commitment. Even if I got laid off, I could make that amount with unemployment benefits.

This does confirm that I need to set up my Roth payment to be automatic, or I won't want to send it all at once. That's for sure. I emailed my financial manager guy about how to do that.

So right now, that's the new plan. On a scale of 1 to 10, how annoying is my flip-flopping? Actually, don't answer that. I don't want to know.

Monday, November 7, 2011

No Spend Days in November: Week 1

Here's the update on no spend days for my first week of November.

Tuesday, November 1: No spend!
Wednesday, November 2: Met BF for a quick dinner since we hadn't seen each other all week. He closed a bunch of days in a row, so we had sushi during his half hour dinner break and we each paid for half. Spent $13
Thursday, November 3: Dinner and $5 parking at King's game. BF paid for tickets so I got dinner for both of us.
Friday, November 4: No spend! Went to happy hour, but BF paid. :) Then I came home and went to bed at 7:45. I kid you not.
Saturday, November 5: Ha! Gas ($48), groceries ($43), night out at our favorite dive bar ($46).
Sunday, November 6: Almost no spend. I made cider at home to take to an outdoor craft festival and resisted buying anything there. But then my friend and I got inspired and we went to Michael's to get craft stuff. I spent $18, but that should make a bunch of Christmas presents, so I'm okay with it. I did eat all my meals at home though!
Monday, November 7: No spend! Ate BF's pumpkin cake for breakfast, threw together a sandwich for work, BF made chili in the crock pot for dinner. Yay!

For those of you keeping score at home, that's three days so far. My goal is eleven days, so I'm on track. I definitely think this will help me save money. It stops me from spending on the little things, which is great. And even on days like yesterday, where I ended up spending, I saved money by eating at home and making my own apple cider to keep me warm at the craft fair, instead of stopping at Starbucks.

I'm also realizing that this is definitely a team effort with BF. He doesn't know about the goal...I think he won't get it and will think I'm being weird and cheap. Which sometimes I am. But, part of why I'm successful is because he cooks too. On days when I come home and don't feel like cooking, it's AWESOME to have something ready to go. He also makes a killer breakfast. I appreciate him. Even if he does want to use the heater when I think we should both just use two blankets, wear hooded sweatshirts, thick socks, and drink hot beverages (hence, he thinks I'm weird and cheap).

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Crunching the Numbers

When I posted my WWDRD? post, If I Were A Wealthy Girl commented, challenging me to figure out what my payoff/savings goal dates would be if I actually applied Dave's baby steps to the letter. Meaning no extra retirement until my E-fund is taken care of, paying my student debts first, etc. I realized I didn't know. So I thought I'd do some calculating.

One caveat: I have $3,000 of loan forgiveness coming my way at the end of this school year. So if I went gazelle intense, I could pay off my student loan before that, but obviously I don't want to. So, I need to leave enough that my regular payments go through and I still have $3,000 that I owe.

Plan 1: Dave's Way

I wouldn't put the money I have set aside into my Roth or 3 month E-fund, I'd apply that to my student loan. Then, because of my loan forgiveness I would switch to E-fun until the $3,000 posts. Whenever it posts, I'd pull the money out of my 3 month E-fund to pay the balance off.
Loan Payoff: Approximately June 2012
3 Month E-fund: March 2012
6 Month E-fund: August 2012
House Fund: January 2015

Pros: I am debt-free sooner in this plan. I also have my fully-funded E-fund by the end of the school year, in case I get laid off. This is definitely the fastest plan.
Cons: No Roth contribution for 2011, or for the first half of 2012. Wipes out savings over $1,000, so if a bigger emergency comes up, that's it.

Scenario 2: My Plan

Pay $300 extra toward student loan per month. Put tax return (up to $2,300) toward student loan. Save $400 per month, with $300 going toward E-fund and $100 going toward house fund. Put $420 per month toward my Roth, starting in January. Put current savings toward 2011 Roth to max that out as well.

Student Loan: Paid off October 2012 (just in time for my 30th birthday)
3 Month E-fund: October 2012
6 Month E-fund: June 2013
House: March 2016

Pros: I invest in my Roth starting this year, and it's funded fully for 2012 as well. I get to see something going on in my house down payment fund now rather than later.
Cons: WAY Later house fund (is that even correct?!). Later on pretty much everything.

Scenario 2: My plan modified...

I don't do the 2011 Roth Contribution. I split that money between my student loan and my E-fund. I still pay $300 per month toward my loan. I save my tax return for the beginning of a wedding fund. I save $400 per month in my E-fund, until loan is paid off. When that's done put $800 toward E-fund, and when that's funded switch the money to a house down payment.

Student Loan: August 2012
3 Month E-fund: May 2012
6 Month E-fund: November 2012
House Fund: October 2015

Pros: Still get to do Roth for 2012, get three month E-fund done by the end of this school year. House fund is earlier than my original plan. I have some savings now, and can use my tax returns as the need arises.
Cons: No Roth for 2011. Later house fund than Dave's plan, but sooner than my original.

I think I'm going to go with Scenario 3. It allows for meeting some goals faster and doesn't depend on my tax return to meet my debt payoff goal. Considering BF told me, "Just get me a small Christmas present and put the money towards a wedding" (!!!) I have a feeling I'll be needing a wedding fund sooner rather than later. I also want to get my Roth going for 2012, and this plan allows for that. But, I think I'm going to sleep on it before I move any money around.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Halloween!

Every year I come up with two Halloween costumes. One for a party I go to at my friend's house, and another for work. So, without further ado, here is Halloween 2011!

For the party, I went as Marcia Brady when she got hit in the nose with a football. Freddie went as Alice, the maid. I found both our dresses at the thrift store for $5 each. I borrowed my football and used eyeshadow to make my bruised nose. I also spend $5 on nylons, since the party was outside and I didn't want to freeze in my dress. Freddie's wig was the most expensive part of his costume, but overall we got out a lot cheaper than if we had bought the pre-made costume online.



At school, I was Minnie Mouse. Freddie got me the ears and apron for my birthday at Disneyland, I bought the red shirt for $6 at Target, and I bought black face makeup to do my nose. Everything else I already had, so that was easy. The kids loved it, and it was fun to wear. This picture is at the end of the day when my nose paint had worn off, but you still get the idea.


What did you do for Halloween?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

WWDRD?

That's "What Would Dave Ramsey Do?"

No, I do not follow Dave's advice to the letter. I slowly built my $1,000 emergency fund while paying off my credit card debt. I have upped my retirement and savings goals while I still have student loan debt. His definition of "gazelle-like" probably does not include getting his hair done every 8 weeks.

But I do generally follow his "Baby Steps"philosophy. And I've run into a problem.

There's no, "Save for a down payment on a house and then get a mortgage" baby step. When is that supposed to happen? Most of his stuff seems to assume people already have mortgages, and are paying them off vigourously. And I know the Davester isn't a fan of any debt, so maybe he thinks I should save for a house and pay it in cash?

Not. Going. To. Happen.

I will be debt free by this October. I'll be maxing out my Roth IRA by putting $419ish per month aside. And that should leave me with about $300 per month to put into my savings.

So, do I put all of that towards Baby Step Three: 3-6 month emergency fund? Or should some of it go toward a house down payment fund? I know it wouldn't be smart to buy a house without a fully-funded emergency fund, but I also don't want to put off buying a house until I'm a million years old.

Here's my tentative plan: with my $300 per month that I am planning to save, I am going to put $200 toward my e-fund and $100 toward my house down payment fund. Even though I'll probably leave all of it in my Summer Saver to earn interest money. But, I am going to start a spreadsheet to note what the amount in there should be split towards. That way when it dumps into my checking account in August of 2012 the decisions on what to do with it will be made.

Any other Dave Ramsey fans run into this question? Does he have an official answer on this?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November No Spend Challenge

No, I am not doing a No Spend November. That's just not happening. BUT, I am going to set a goal to have some no spend days this month.

I've always thought no spend days were a little silly. It doesn't matter when you spend the money, so your overall budget is more important. However, I noticed that I spend money on little things a lot.

A coffee from McDonalds here.

Breakfast in the school cafeteria instead of making toast and bringing yogurt.

Grabbing little supplies for my classroom here and there (folders and more pencils just last week).

It all adds up. And if I were trying to have no spend days, then I would be much more likely to forgo these little items, which in the end would add up to some savings.

So, since I am not accustomed to doing the no spend thing, I've decided to pick an arbitrary number and go with it as a goal. Because everyone knows goals should be random and meaningless.

Since November is the eleventh month, I'm going for eleven no spend days in November! I'll keep track of them on the blog, and hopefully this will help me be more disciplined in my discretionary money, and come in under budget in that category.

Anyone want to join me?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Debt Free by Thirty: The Plan

I recently decided that I want to eliminate my student loan debt by the time I turn thirty, which is twelve months away. Right now I have $9,188.92 to go.

Obviously I need a game plan.

Here's what I figured-

*Right now around $53 per month goes toward my principle payment (my total payment is about $80/month).
*I have $3,000 of loan forgiveness which should be credited by the end of the school year.
*I'm planning on putting my tax return toward my student loan. I'm planning for another $2,000 there.
*This leaves me with around $300 per month to pay on my loans to make this happen.

Yuck. I'm not looking forward to this, but I know I can do it. And with interest rates so low, even my Summer Saver only gets me 0.7% more in interest than I pay on my loan. So while I love the feeling of saving money, I also know that it's not much more beneficial to wait on my student loan.

If I go with this plan, I can keep contributing to my Roth IRA, my 403(b), and still save around $300 per month. And Dave Ramsey would be proud. It's "WWDRD?" approved.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bloggy Secret Santa

Serendipity is hosting a Blogger Secret Santa gift exchange for Christmas, and I'm in! There's a $15 limit, so it's totally reasonable. I think it will be super fun to try to come up with a gift for a fellow blogger based on what they tell me and by reading their blog stalker style to determine what they would like. And, I'll get something in mail too, which is always fun! You should do it!

Serendipity also asked us to write a bit about our likes and dislikes. So here goes:

I like jewelry, especially necklaces. I don't like animals. I like quirky movies, I can never have enough lip gloss, and I love to read.

I feel like that's enough to go on. I'm excited!

Friday, October 28, 2011

October Was a Bad Month...or Was It?

I just did some balancing and tallying for October, as I had not tracked my spending all week. I knew it wasn't going to be pretty. I had an unexpected quincienera gift to buy, the dentist, a shopping trip, a 5k I signed up for, a class I took through LAUSD, and a bunch of little things I spent money on. And sure enough, I ended up pulling $50 out of my E-fund to make sure I would be good until I get paid next Thursday.

I was sort of mad at myself for having to do that, but then I remembered-I managed to save $2000 this month. (Or $1,950 if you count my $50 from my E-fund).

I guess it wasn't too bad of a month after all.

I carried $500 of that over from September's budget, but the rest came from my October paycheck. This puts me on track for my Roth IRA contributions, and leaves me with $1,000 in my savings. I'm not sure what that money's for. I go back and forth on what to do with it, so for now it will just sit in my Summer Saver to earn my good interest rate.

But, it made me realize that even when I go a little off track, I've come a long way from when I was using credit cards every month and had no idea where my money went. All I knew was that none of it was going to savings. And now I have a healthy savings account. And that feels good.

Do you ever realize that you aren't doing so bad after beating yourself up?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Teacher Spending

It's pretty common for teachers to spend their own money on their classrooms. So common that people don't see it as a problem.

It is a problem. What other job would ask you to buy supplies without getting reimbursed? Do nurses buy their patients medicines? Do bankers buy their own...crap, I don't even know what they use. Pens? (Every business needs pens).

I think you get my point. I usually fight hard against buying things for my classroom, because it's simply unfair. This year, for whatever reason, I've spent more than I planned already. Here's the damage so far:

*Online grading program: The school says they bought a membership, but it took so long to materialize that I bought a membership to Jupiter Grades for $49.95. This is an online grading system so students and parents can check their grades 24 hours a day.
*Snacks-these are for my class reward system (bonus bucks). One of the incentives is a snack, so I went to Big Lots and spent around $20 on pretzels, granola bars, fruit snacks, and bottles of water. (I refuse to buy candy. They get enough junk, so I try to buy things with some semblance of health to them.)
*Pencils-this is also something the kids can buy with bonus bucks. Rather than be SUPER annoyed by kids telling me they don't have a pencil and asking to borrow one, I "sell" them for two bonus bucks. For whatever reason, they've been selling like crazy this year. I've spent around $5 so far, which isn't a ton, but I know this is going to keep adding up throughout the year.
*Markers/Crayons-before school started I hit up Walmart and got colored pencils, markers, pencil boxes, erasers, sharpeners, and crayons for my classroom. It makes doing projects a lot easier and these are honestly just necessities for any classroom. I spent about $25 on these items.
*Halloween-this isn't required, but I bought my student's erasers and "scary" rings for Halloween. Again, I'm anti-candy, but I wanted to get them a little something. I usually get Halloween pencils, but with class sizes over 40, I went for the more economical erasers. I spent about $5 on this.

Total so far: $105. And it's October. :/

I'm definitely going to try to cut back, but I know it's not totally over. So, for all the parents who complain about buying back to school supplies, please know that the teachers get it. We buy school supplies too. I try to make my supply lists contain only what is necessary, but if I didn't have a pretty lengthy supply list, I'd spend even more of my own money than I already do.

Any other teachers wan to chime in with how much you spend? I have a feeling I'm on the lower end of the spectrum, actually.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Spending Week: The Dentist

Last week I had my dentist appointment to get my filling replaced. This is the one that has fallen out a few times, and the dentist was worried it might be a root canal. Luckily I dodged that bullet!

I talked about my dental dilemma about a month ago, but essentially the metal fillings are free (via insurance) and the nice, white, non-mercury filled ones cost me $110. Yuck. Before I went in, I was leaning toward the metal one, especially since this filling likes to come out (it's happened twice already). I shared my concerns and she said that the white ones usually stay in better. I told her it's always been white ones that have popped out and she offered me a deal: if it comes out, she'll put in a metal one and refund me the money for this filling. Basically a money-back guarantee.

It worked. Partly because it's towards the front on the bottom and the metal would be visible. And I'm vain like that. For the other cavity I have that is on the top in the back, I'm going with metal. Bring on the mercury.

Since I didn't plan on getting the white filling, I didn't budget for the expense. I am trying to make up the amount in other areas of my budget, but if I have to I'll use my emergency fund to cover the amount.

What would you do/have you done in this situation?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Unexpected Deals at The Limited

Last week the boyfriend and I went out for a date night. We hit up a new spot for Happy Hour sushi, and then went to the movies since the tickets are $5 each on Tuesdays. This theater is at the mall, and we had some time to kill, so I wandered into my favorite store, The Limited.

This is not normally where I go for discount clothes, but they do have a pretty good clearance rack. And that night, they were even having a take an additional 40% off sale. YES. Though I had not exactly budgeted for this trip, I did a little retail therapy after a long day at school and picked up a few things.

I got this skirt, which is super fun. I wore it with black tights and boots and a black sweater. Orange isn't usually in my color palette, but with the black lace I thought it was fun. Original cost: $80...I got it for $11.99. I got a lot of compliments on it from the kids, many of whom called it my "Halloween skirt."

I also got a super cute purple vest. My school color is purple, and we're supposed to wear it every Monday, so I thought this was a good find. I wore it with a white button down and dark jeans, along with the super cute matching purple necklace I got. The vest was originally $50, I got it for $10.19. The necklace was originally $25, but I got that for $6.59. 
 
All told I spent $31.29, which I think is great. I decided that I will make this my October dress code reward (assuming I stick to the dress code), which means most of it will come out of next month's budget.

Apparently this is my week of spending posts, since I've got another one coming about spending money at the dentist and how much I've spent on my classroom this year. Neither of which is as fun as the last few posts about real shopping.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Birthday Gift Cards Part Two-TJ Maxx

My lovely friend Becca gave me a gift card to TJ Maxx for my birthday. I had some time to kill before my mom's birthday dinner, so I stopped for my free Starbucks drink and then did some shopping at TJ Maxx. I got some great deals in the clearance section. Here they are:

Super cute bowls-I LOVE these bowls. One is a bright pink, the other teal, and both are a bamboo like design on the inside. Suggested price was $20, TJ's price was $8, and I got each one for $3 in the clearance section. Score!

I also stumbled across some good Christmas finds, and all for people who I do not think read this blog. So, I will share. I got some super cute stationary and pen sets for my sixth grade co-teachers for seven bucks each. I snagged some cute cards for my grandma (because she is the queen of thank you notes), and a bed caddy that I think she'll like to keep books and such near her without cluttering her nightstand. The cards were marked down to $2 and the caddy was originally $13, but marked down to $3! And last, I got 24 fun pencils for my classroom for another $2.


I spent $4 out of my own pocket, and am super excited about my finds. I am seriously enamored with the bowls, and I think the bed caddy is so cool, I may just keep it. And, I am thrilled to start my Christmas shopping with some deals...especially since my best idea for the boyfriend's gift is extremely pricey. But more on that later.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Taking A Breath

Yes, I'm alive. I just haven't been online except for work stuff since Tuesday. It was a crazy week. Besides work, I had:

Monday-dentist appointment
Tuesday-date night with bf
Wednesday-Doctor's appointment and Mom's birthday
Thursday-Middle School Pep Squad practice and a hair appointment
Friday-Happy hour (can't complain about that!)
Saturday-All day class to earn salary points, BF's family event last night

It's. Been. Crazy.

I have several blog posts rolling around in my mind. I'm a little over budget because of my dentist appointment and a small shopping trip on Tuesday. I am considering it my dress code reward for October. :)

Today I'm running errands, looking for a Halloween costume, cleaning my house, and writing a week's worth of blog posts. I've missed writing and reading your blogs, and hopefully this week will be a bit more mellow.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Birthday Gift Card: Part 1

A couple of friends very generously bought me a $40 Target gift card for my birthday. I had a few ideas of how to use it:

a) Buy a foot bath to make my at home pedicures more impressive and relaxing
b) Buy a bunch of necessities for myself so they won't have to come out of my regular budget
c)Buy Christmas gifts for other people

I decided on option B, but also added in a few things for my Halloween costume. I spent $48.15 (so only $8.15 out of pocket). I used coupons from the paper to try to get even more bang for my buck. Here's what I got:


Dryer Sheets-$1.99
Lysol Kitchen Cleaner-$1.97
Crest Toothpaste with free travel sized toothpaste-$1.99 after coupon
Two boxes Tampax Pearl Comak-$3.99 for both (buy one get one free coupon)
Sulfate Free Conditioner-$5.99
Twin Pack Dove Deoderant-$3.14 after coupon
Neutrogena Face Wash-$4.99
Ten pack pencils (for work)-$1.00
Neutrogena Foundation-$9.99 after coupon
False Eyelashes (for Halloween)-$3.00
Red shirt (for Halloween)-on clearance for $5.60

I'm sure the extreme couponers out there could have done better, but I'm pretty pleased with my purchases. I made myself buy Neutrogena foundation instead of Clinique. If I like it I am saving over $15. Here's hoping I can make the switch.

Some would say I should have gone with option A and treated myself...but honestly I had fun finding items on sale and I'm pretty excited about getting all of these items for only eight bucks (which is coming out of the $50 I budgeted for Halloween). I've seen some posts about how PF bloggers are not like most people...I think this is one of those times where that is proven correct. Especially since I photographed and blogged about my trip to Target.

How do you use gift cards?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Budget Communication

Last night I was helping the BF work on his resume, something I've wanted to get my hands on for a while. It went well and we got a lot done. He was saying it sounded good and that we made a lot of progress. I said "Now if I can just get my hands on your budget..." And he replied, "Go ahead."

YES.

He told me how much he brings home and what bills he has. I wrote up a rough template last night and we talked about it some. He asked some questions, including: "The thing I've never understood about budgeting is how do I plan for something like gas? I don't know how much I'm going to spend ahead of time." I talked him through it, emphasizing that he needs to record EVERYTHING he spends in order to figure out what his budget should look like.

He said, "Oh, like Weight Watchers." Totally reminded me of Red's post about weight loss this week. :) He made several comparisons to WW, which was a good way to get him on board since he's been really successful at that (kicking my ass at it, in fact.)

Anyway, I don't think I should go into too much detail here on his budget...apparently he believes in something called "privacy." Pssshhh. But I did allow extra money each month to go towards his savings or his debt, which made me excited. Here's hoping he will stick to it, because this would get us onto the same page with things, which would be AWESOME.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I'm 29!

I got this idea from my friend Jessica, who did this for her 27th birthday. I decided to make a list of 28 things I'm thankful for or proud of that happened while I was 28, plus something I'm looking forward to, to make the list 29 things for my 29th birthday. Read on, if you'd like to know!

1. I have been lucky enough to stay in good overall health this year.
2. I lived on my own (as in by myself) for the first time, and actually enjoyed it.
3. My boyfriend and I moved in together, which has been a great decision. I am so thankful for all the ways we make each other happy.
4. I started a 403(b).
5. I started a Roth IRA, and am on track to max it out this year.
6. I paid off my car loan eleven months early!
7. I made sure I got my loan forgiveness for my student loans, and received my second to last payment.
8. I got to visit Alaska for the first time and have an amazing trip with my sister.
9. I visited Chicago for the first time with Freddie and learned a lot about how we travel together.
10. I went to San Francisco and saw a baseball game with three of my cousins.
11. I got closer to my cousin Karen and had lots of fun times with her this year.
12. I did not get laid off this year.
13. I was able to work and a brand new school. While this is not without challenges, I am thankful for this new opportunity.
14. I finally called in to a radio show on NPR to talk about education.
15. I used the library to avoid buying ANY books this year, and read many books.
16. I got closer with my friend Jessica and I am thankful that she is also friends with my boyfriend.
17. I maintained this blog and feel like I am making more "friends" across the blogosphere.
18. I kept going to book club, which has been fun and made me read a variety of books I might not have read otherwise.
19. I met my goal of selling over $500 worth of items online.
20. I ran a 5k without stopping to walk once!
21. I go to work with kids I like each day, and have been able to keep in touch with some awesome former students.
22. I used my Spanish to communicate with parents at Back-to-School Night, even though I am not fluent. (Goal-work on Spanish next Summer)
23. Took enough classes to get a raise at work, and learned about all sorts of things that made me a better teacher.
24. I cooked Thanksgiving dinner and Easter brunch for my family, and I'm very thankful they were able to be with me.
25. I co-coordinated the Pennies for Patients fundraiser at my school, raising over $5,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
26. I am thankful for new friends that I've made at work and through my boyfriend's friends and families.
27. I am thankful for my friendships with old friends, which though they have changed, are still valuable in my life.
28. I am thankful for my family who supports me no matter what.

And the thing I am most looking forward to this year: I plan to pay off my student loan before I turn thirty, which will make me officially, 100% debt free!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Blogging Energy

I've noticed a pattern for my blogging habits. Over the weekend, I'm all gung ho. I write posts for the week. I started on Twitter last week, and began thinking of how to get more readers and eventually make some money on my blog.

Then Monday comes. Work has been crazy, I come home tired after a long day of teaching, grading, meetings, etc. I spend a little time with the boyfriend, relax a little, and then I'm done for the night. I barely manage to look at the comments you are so kind to leave (please don't stop leaving them!), much less think about writing any more posts. I really like having this blog, but man I am glad I've written my posts for the week.

Do you ever find it hard to blog? What keeps you going?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dress Code Reward, Month One

I posted last month about my dress code challenge for this school year. I stipulated that if I met my goals each month I get $25 to spend on clothes or what have you. I succeeded in keeping the code for September, and chose to spend my money on a new Clinique compact during bonus time. I got this:
I'm actually giving my mom two of the items. I've already used the lip color, and when my face wash runs out I'm looking forward to trying the sample I got. :)

This month has been easy so far since last week was Spirit Week, and all rules are off for that. But, I have to get back into my routine of dressing like a professional this week! I already have plans for next months $25, but I've got to earn it! :)

Do you ever set up rewards for yourself? Does it work to keep you motivated?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I Might Be Hooked

I mentioned that I was running a 5k in honor of my 29th birthday this week. The race was today, and I will admit that I hadn't trained in the last few weeks. Like, at all.

I don't have a history of running, so my goal was to run the whole time, no matter how slowly. Once I stopped training, I figured I would walk part, but decided to do it anyway.

But as I got going, I made a decision to run the whole thing. AND I DID IT!!

My time was 35:55, and I have to say I crossed the finish line with a big smile on my face. And my friend Elaine and I have already talked about signing up for the Long Beach Turkey Trot and trying to beat our times on Thanksgiving morning.

Running isn't a super expensive hobby, but there are expenses associated with races...but if it keeps me more motivated to exercise and gives me the feeling of accomplishment I had today, I think it'll be worth it.

What's that? You want to see sweaty, red-faced pictures of me at the race? Done!

Nearing the end!

Elaine and I started together, and then she beat me by five minutes. :)
Freddie ran with me for a bit at the water station...and took pictures of me with water on my shirt.


Yay for my supportive boyfriend, who runs 9 miles at at time, but still says he's proud of me.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Team GPS

About six months ago, my boyfriend's car got broken into in his garage. Super lame. His GPS was stolen, among other things. Since his car has On Star capabilities, he called them and asked for a free trial of their navigation plan. On Star is pretty awesome, and gave him six months free! He used that, but decided that when it ran out he wanted to buy a new GPS, in part because I have a tendency to get lost and he wanted to be able to have both of us use it.

He searched online and found a brand new one on Craigslist for $120. It has lifetime maps and traffic updates, and that was about $25 cheaper than what we could find online for similar features. He kept asking me what I thought and I was saying I didn't care as I read blogs.

"It seems like a good idea, since you'll have it for a long time."
"We'll have it for a long time."
"Ohhhh, yeah. Did you want me to split the cost with you?"
"Yes."

It's interesting, because a GPS is not something I'd buy for myself. But, I knew that once he bought it, I'd use it all the time. Much like the iPod Touch he bought used online, which he's used about twice since he bought it. I use it. All. The. Time.

Part of me didn't want to buy it...it wasn't exactly in my budget or part of my renewed gazelle-like goals. But since I knew I'd use it a lot, and I feel kind of bad about the whole iPod thing, I gave him the sixty bucks for it. I used it over the weekend, and I'll be honest. I love it. I'm glad we split it so I don't have to feel guilty for wanting to use it a lot. And it goes back to my post about being a team.

Freddie is not as frugal as I am, though he does look for deals and does sell things on Amazon or Craigslist. When he wants something (usually a gadget of some sort), he researches, tries to find it used or on sale, and sells the older model he's getting rid of on Amazon or Craigslist to recoup some of his expenses. I'm more likely to deprive myself. Sometimes it's good for me to be with someone who will just buy something if he will enjoy it. I never would have bought the iPod Touch, but I really wanted one. Same with the GPS. This doesn't mean I'm going wild and buying a new TV and computer. But I think we both push each other a little bit, which is a good thing.

And I'm less likely to get lost, so I'll save on gas money. I can justify anything.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Choosing Not to Afford It

Recently I attended a wedding in Santa Barbara. The bride is a childhood friend, and I'm really glad I went to see her get married. She was so happy and gracious...asking everyone if they were having fun and if they needed anything during the reception. (I joked to my other friend that I should say, "Hey, the toilet's clogged, can you go take care of that?")

I live a few hours from Santa Barbara, and attended with another old friend, as dates were not invited (don't get me started). It was a lot of driving, but my friend and I shared gas and had a good time. About a month before the wedding, the bride messaged me about getting a hotel room and mentioned she had a friend we could share a room with if we wanted. I wrote back saying I had just planned to drive home after. She recommended staying so we could "drink and have fun," which is understandable.

The room would have been $50 each, and I just didn't care to spend the money. The drive isn't terrible, and I'd rather come home to my own bed and my boyfriend than spend more money for the wedding weekend, especially since I knew hardly anyone else there. So I wrote back thanking her for the option, but that I'd rather not spend the money.

Her response was worded in such a way that she seemed to think I didn't HAVE the money. It annoyed me more than it probably should have. I COULD spend the money, I just didn't WANT to. (I'll stop capitalizing words now. Sorry.)

I don't know why this bugged me so much. Perhaps because it suggests I am not good at managing money if I can't come up with $50 for a hotel room? Or because I care too much about what she thinks, and I didn't want her to think I am poor? I didn't want her pity? I don't know, but I had to fight the urge to write back and clarify that I could afford it, I just didn't want to.

(I didn't say I wouldn't use italics!)


Have you had a similar experience? Did it bother you?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Frugal Romance-Chores

Of the two of us, I am definitely the cleaner half of this couple. I'm not a neat freak, but I don't like clutter, and dirtyness gets to me before it gets to my BF. He goes out of his way to make an effort, but I probably do more deep cleaning and maintenance than he does.

But over the last few weeks BF has been doing a lot of little things around the house that really make me happy. Last weekend, he cleaned the whole kitchen, including the stove, sink, counters, and floor (not to mention the stack of dishes in the sink). He took out the trash. Another day I came home and he had vacuumed the floors.

Yes, this is part of living together. We both work full-time, so we both do chores. But I know that he went out of his way to do extra because he knows it makes me happy. And it spurs on more good deeds. I did a load of his laundry while he was at work last weekend, because I know how nice it is to have something done for you. I cleaned up before he got home from work this week, and he did the same by doing the dishes almost everyday (which was AWESOME.) I think it gets me more excited to have cleaning done for me, but he was pretty stoked about his laundry.

So, as an act of service and romance, pick your partners least favorite chore and do it for them. And there's nothing wrong with letting them know you did it for that reason! Maybe it will start a chain reaction in your household too.