Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Review

In 2011, I said I was going to be open.

Clearly, this year exceeded my expectations and I definitely was open. I fulfilled my dream of moving to NYC after landing a new job. I was open to everything...and a lot of it came my way so much more easily than I ever thought it would!

I was especially open to new experiences and putting myself out there once I moved. I made an absolutely amazing group of friends who I've done so much with and continue to make plans with.

I'm still thinking about what I want to focus on in 2012 (though I still plan on being open to anything and everything!)...but in the meantime, I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year's Eve, whether you are with friends, family, a significant other or simply having a night on your own. :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Still Living Life

Well, I've still been living and loving life! After a relaxing few days at home over Thanksgiving, my social life was literally NONSTOP for the two-and-a-half weeks I was back in the city before Christmas. Holiday parties, birthday parties, happy hours, dinners, Secret Santa exchanges and just going out with friends kept every single night booked. I loved it, but it did a number on me as I have been sleeping 10 hours a night since then! On the dating front, I did sign up for a 6-month Match membership. (I've been on one date so far and there are some other prospects.) I'm also going to my very first speed-dating event in January with two girlfriends and I have a Lifebooker deal for the site I keep being drawn to, but haven't signed up for yet, How About We. I'm also letting coworkers/friends know that I want to be set up! We'll see what happens.

Now I can definitely say I'm ready for 2012...even though 2011 has been nothing short of amazing! Moving to NYC, making friends, finding a great living situation and being open to everything that came my way has been incredible. For 2012, I'm excited about trying new things (kickball league!), traveling to new countries (Costa Rica! Thailand!) and making more memories with the people in my life. And what better way to ring in the new year - along with my birthday a week later - than with a fresh haircut, manicure with my favorite color and a new dress? :)

Hope everyone had a very wonderful Christmas and that this holiday season is enjoyable!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Living Life

Life's been non-stop since my last update. It's included awesome nights out with friends, lots of exploring NYC, lax spending habits and...a break up.

That boy I'd been seeing for over a month? Pulled back suddenly and then broke up with me a week ago. Turns out he was also dating someone at work and chose her over me. (Ugh!) Luckily, I stayed really busy last week - but it didn't exactly help because I always fall fast and hard for guys, and this one definitely HURT. At the end of the day, at least it ended sooner rather than later...except I hate that saying! Because it sucks the same for me whether it's a month or 6 months or a 1 year relationship. I like/love/lust hard - always have, always will. Heart on my sleeve, all that stuff. I put all me into something right away and I know I'll never NOT be able to do that. That's just who I am! So when the right guy comes along, it'll all be worth it. :) (It would be nice if he could hurry...I'm also impatient and have a LOT of love in me!)

I've spent a fair amount of money recently on some new clothes, a new winter coat (it SNOWED on October 29th...I'm not ready for that yet!) and a pair of winter boots. And then? I realized I hadn't paid my Nordstrom card on time - and got hit with my FIRST INTEREST CHARGE EVER. Oops! I had ordered a bunch of stuff and sent 75% of it back, so I was waiting for the returns to hit before paying the card - except I wasn't paying attention to the date and November 1 passed before I realized what I had missed. Good thing it was only $ the end of the day, not THAT bad and a lesson learned!

I ended up having a great weekend (despite a Friday night of much-needed wallowing/me time) with friends. We all went out on Saturday which I needed. I couldn't be more grateful for them! On Sunday a group of us spent 3+ hours cheering for all of the NYC Marathon runners on 1st Avenue! It was so inspiring to watch all these people pushing themselves to accomplish the 26.2 miles through all the boroughs. I can't wait to cheer again next year! I would personally never do it, I'm not a runner and never have been - but I have total and complete respect/awe for everyone who completed it! (Including Ethan Zohn, who I saw run by!)

This week, I'll just be going to the gym a lot and reading... I was able to get Game of Thrones Book One from the New York Public Library on my Kindle and I am completely hooked! I'm reading it at almost every free moment and even turning down my favorite shows to read. It's been a while since I've been that into a book, and I love getting completely lost in a story of epic proportions! I also need to shore up my October budget and start thinking about Christmas!

Other items:
  • Considering re-joining (It's been 2 years since I used that site, the matchmaker doesn't have any more matches for me "right now" and I've never had anything come to fruition from using OKCupid in the past.)
  • I made brownies using a pre-made Trader Joe's mix over the weekend. I'm not a dessert person (except ice cream and creme brûlée!) so this was strange...I even added Nutella and chocolate chips to them!
  • I'm going to Atlantic City this Saturday-Sunday with my friends and I can't wait. Gambling? No. Okay, fine, maybe some penny slots... Dancing? Definitely!
  • Daylight Savings Time... sunny at 7am and pitch black by 5pm. I'm nervous for the impending winter but also excited! I just hope it doesn't mean being completely holed up all the time...
  • My Roth IRA that I opened 3 years ago at Vanguard is showing me a 3-year rate of return of 12.1%! How exciting!
  • Home to Seattle for Thanksgiving in two weeks and I cannot wait. I seriously need family time and getting away from the city for 4.5 days will be great. Then Christmas a month later! Need to funnel any extra money into my Gift Fund this month and next.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Another Weekend Getaway (+ About a Boy)

September has been a very busy month for me! I moved into my new apartment, my Mom came to visit, I went back to San Diego on vacation and now I'm off for another brief weekend getaway to the Midwest for my best friend's brother's wedding. It's just Friday-Sunday but it'll be a blast! The wedding on Saturday is an all-day event with a morning ceremony, brunch, various afternoon activities (golf or spa) and then an evening reception. And of course I'm excited to spend time with my best friend! It'll be a weekend full of laughter and fun for sure. :)

So...about this boy. I've started dating someone as of a week ago. It's brand new and I'm quite possibly jinxing myself by blogging (and tweeting) about it already...but I don't care. I'm super, ridiculously happy! We were set up by a matchmaker, which is crazy in and of itself. (A few months ago, on a night where I might've had an extra glass of wine, I decided on a whim to try something different from all the online dating I've done previously...and this is what I found! I signed up as a free member.) Our first date was a blind date to me since I'm not the paying customer so I wasn't privy to a picture of him, but I was intrigued. I knew next to nothing about him except his first name, age, height and where he worked. He called me two days before to set up the date and suggested an Italian restaurant. I was excited and nervous because I'd never been on a blind date before!

The date was good. Not great or amazing or outstanding, but fairly solid. We had a lot in common (travel, being active, food and being family-oriented) and the conversation flowed easily. We took a cab together from the restaurant to my apartment where he dropped me off, gave me a hug and said he had a good time. Not 20 minutes later I received a text from him saying he knows he's not supposed to ask me out until after feedback (with the matchmaker) but that he had a great time and would like to go out again. I agreed and we ended up going out two days later, which hands down ended up being the best date I've ever been on. We went rock climbing so we met up in our workout clothes and talked non-stop. I loved the fact that we were doing a fun and challenging activity as a date! After that, he suggested grabbing some food so I took him to one of my favorite restaurants where we ended up getting a bunch of empanadas and splitting a pitcher of sangria. We stayed up talking until 4:30 in the morning! Definitely the longest second date I've ever been on. :)

And we've been out two more times since then, once for a quick dinner after work and then he cooked me dinner at his apartment. We are definitely in the exciting, fun, I-want-to-learn-everything-about-you phase. By the way, who goes on four dates in one week?! Honestly, though, it hasn't even felt like a week - it's felt like we've known each other for months. Which is a feeling I've never had with anyone else before. Now, due to my weekend away and a business trip for him next week, we'll have an entire week apart. Which is a good thing. (Perspective? Absence makes the heart grow fonder?) But he's already told me to leave next Friday open for a date he's already planning.

So, yes. Who knows what'll happen in a week or a month or whatever...but I'm living in the now and relishing this, because that's what matters!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

San Diego Vacation

I got back late last night from a wonderful 4.5 day vacation back to San Diego! I saw a LOT of old friends (and even met some new ones!) which is exactly what I set out to do. The night before I left, I was getting a bit anxious: I'd never been on a vacation by myself before where most people would be at work while I was there. However, once I arrived everything just was a blast! I had lunch/dinner/drinks set up for practically every day, and I didn't even get to see everyone I wanted to...or rather, some people didn't get back to me.

On Wednesday, my first day, I arrived at 11am after taking an early morning flight from NYC. I picked up my rental car and after having a brief "oh-my-god-I-haven't-driven-in-six-months-do-I-remember-how-to-do-this" moment, I blasted the music and was good to go! (I actually got a free upgrade to a mid-size rental car because I needed to be able to adjust the seat higher due to my shortness. Sweet!) I spent the afternoon a mall. Forgot what a luxury that is after living in New York. I went a bit crazy at Nordstrom's which is my favorite! I also bought gifts (baby, wedding and thank you) for the friends I was seeing/staying with.

Thursday and Friday were packed with fantastic long lunches and dinners with great friends! And lots of Mexican food. :) Saturday was the beautiful wedding of my former roommate and his longtime girlfriend. Such a blast! The weather was perfect after the prior overcast days and the celebration was wonderful. Catch-up conversations, laughter, dancing, drinking and lots of love - everything you could want at a wedding! I saw a lot of great friends there, and the next morning we had an awesome breakfast courtesy of the newly married couple's families prior to most of us leaving.

Of course, this wouldn't be a personal finance blog without the numbers! I paid $385 for my RT flight a few months back and had already paid for it from my Travel Fund. My rental car cost me $124.22 for the 4 days (I got the cheapest insurance package at $10/day since I no longer have car insurance and my credit cards didn't offer enough protection) plus one tank of gas which was $45.67. Everything else cost me $409.81 which included all my meals, transportation to/from JFK, shopping, haircut at my old stylist and a mani/pedi. Total: $579.70. Not bad for 4 nights/5 days away! (I also spent $184.36 on the aforementioned gifts, but that'll be coming out of my Gift Fund.)
The trip definitely made me miss San Diego a bit and most of all my friends, but it also made me appreciate my new life in New York that I truly love! As much as I miss the people, I still know that moving to New York was the right thing...especially since my friends will always be my friends, and they are just a plane ride away. :)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Here are some quick personal finance updates:

  • I spent $1,263 last month while I was being a nomad. Most of this was on food, cabs, gifts and fun things since friends were incredibly generous with letting me stay with them!
  • I spent $440 on movers. My Dad generously offered to pay the other half. (Yes, it was ridiculously expensive, but that was due to being last minute.)
  • I was able to save $700 which was split between travel, gift and E-funds.
  • I just wrote checks for September rent ($1,200), security deposit ($1,175) and September cable/internet ($67.73) which is billed forward.
  • I had to buy a wireless router (roommate has a desktop that he plugs in via ethernet)...the cheapest was $32 at Best Buy because I wanted it right away.
  • I've already got $140 in cash back rewards from my Chase Freedom card! Granted, $100 of that was the sign-up bonus...but I'll take it!
  • I've also been buying some things online (like this via Nordstrom!)...but I don't really want to talk about that. It's coming out of my budget but not putting me in the red, so it's all good. ;)
With all of this money going in/out, my bank account is FINALLY back to a "normal" balance after having so much inflow due to selling my car before moving here and the return of my prior security deposit just sitting there.


I can't believe it's September! My month is incredibly busy. First I had an awesome Labor Day weekend to kick it off with my friends. This weekend, my Mom's coming into town to visit! She's going to help me settle into my new place. (I still have five boxes to completely unpack.) Then it's off on a short vacation to San Diego to see one of my best friend's brand new baby girl and attend the wedding of two of my closest friends! Plus, since the weather has already turned rainy and a bit cooler, it'll be nice to spend a few days in sunshine and at the beach. Cannot wait, it'll be my first vacation since I moved. Then I'll have one weekend in the city before I head to the Midwest to be my best friend's date to his brother's wedding.

I'm glad my travel and gift funds are well-stocked, even with both flights already paid for! This month is going to pass by quickly but it'll also be a blast. :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Labor Day Weekend

I hope you had a fun and relaxing Labor Day weekend! Work let us leave early on Friday, so my coworker and I did some shopping for makeup. I ended up spending $81 which was more than I had intended to, but all completely items were ones I use on an almost daily basis that needed replenishing! I'm not good at doing my own makeup but am trying to get the tools to get better. The rest of the weekend consisted of:

Rooftop party
Errands ($2.99 wine at Whole Foods wine store! Gasp, it competes with Trader Joe's?!)
Wine/college football on Saturday night
Friend's birthday brunch/drinking/board games/card games all day Sunday
Relaxing and reading The Help all day on Monday (finished it tonight - SO GOOD! Cannot wait to see the movie this weekend!)
Continuing to settle into my new apartment :)

Definitely a great weekend and a great start to Fall! Cannot wait for the leaves to start changing soon.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Earthquakes & Hurricanes

Yes, it's turning into quite the week here in NYC!

First, an earthquake in Virginia which we felt (and caused the native NYers to freak out slightly - granted, they don't know about earthquakes over here while the Californian in me just laughed a bit).

Now, the possibility of Hurricane Irene on late Saturday/most of Sunday. The lines at Duane Reade/Trader Joe's/Fairway are out of control. I've never been in a hurricane or even a tropical why am I not really worried? (The friends I'm staying with and I stocked up on essentials: booze, snacks and flashlights. We should probably get water and bread, too.) Hope everyone stays safe and crossing my fingers that it won't be as bad as everyone seems to be anticipating.

In other exciting news...I'm moving into my new place next Wednesday! My new roommate is setting up his work schedule so he'll be home to let me and the movers in. I cannot tell you how excited I am to be settled. I can't wait to unpack, set up my room and get back into an actual normal routine with a place to call my own for the foreseeable future. Oh yeah, and I can't wait to cook again! (My list of must-do's is get my act together and make dr/dentist appointments. Seriously.)

Also, today is my 5 month mark of moving to NYC. Crazy, frustrating at times but it has been completely and utterly worth it. My friends are amazing and I'm making new ones every month. Best. Decision. Ever. :)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Apartment: Found

Yes. You read that right. I found an apartment! Or rather, an apartment share in Manhattan.

Let's rewind a bit. By last Friday (July 29th), I had seen almost 10 places that week alone. From places with one-year leases to even a few one-month sublets since nothing else was working out. Again, the ones I wanted immediately never got back to me and I even missed out on one by 10 MINUTES. (Yeah, I don't want to talk about it.) Over the weekend I gave up and found a moving+storage company since I was completely out of options. They came on Saturday and moved all of my belongings: full bed+dresser given to me by the girl I had been subletting from, and 12 boxes. I made a plea on Facebook and was incredibly moved by all the offers of awesome friends to stay on their couches! I cannot thank them enough for their generosity while I'm "homeless."

So after taking a four day break from Craigslist which had been the bane of my apartment hunt in July, on Monday during my lunch break I couldn't resist going back on to see what had popped up over the weekend. I ended up emailing five places and then dove back into my work to have a few hours where I wasn't focusing on the fact that I didn't have a place to live... However, before I even left the office for the day, one of those places had replied to my email. We set up an appointment for that night at 8pm. I didn't have any expectations and I knew to avoid giving off an air of desperation this time around.

And then of course everything worked out exactly how it's supposed to.

I saw the apartment and fell in love with it instantly! And I met my now-soon-to-be (male) roommate and we clicked right away as well. The place is a 2-bed/1-bath with an open kitchen and living room plan. The building is on a very busy avenue but the apartment itself isn't on the street and faces other buildings which means it's very quiet. The location is also amazing! It's on the same corner as one of my favorite restaurants in the city in a bustling neighborhood, it's one avenue from Central Park and one avenue from the subway. As for the finances, my portion of the rent for the larger room with a closet is $1,200. Utilities run around $100 per person for cable, internet and electricity. Altogether it's more than I wanted to pay, but I'd actually set my max rent amount at $1,250 not including utilities so it still falls below that. Plus there's also the one month security deposit and the $75 credit check (ripoff!) fee. You know what? This place is WORTH IT.

I'll be signing onto the lease for a year. I am so excited, but most of all relieved. This is a huge weight off of my shoulders after all of the frustrations and emotional breakdowns I'd been going through! I'm so ready to be somewhere permanent instead of living a semi-nomadic lifestyle.

Life works in funny ways. Just when you least expect it. :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Going Mac

When I moved to New York, I decided it was time for me to say goodbye to my PC and get a Mac. I absolutely love my iPhone which I've had since February, and over the years I've owned two iPods. Apple devices are fantastic and the best part is that they seem to last quite a long time!

A lot of my friends are already pro-Mac and have been for a long time. I've done my research, talked to friends and co-workers and basically anyone. I've been loyal to Dell for as long as I can remember...but my current laptop is 3 years old and it's getting to the end of its days. It's slow, the battery is dying and the charge lasts for less than an hour unplugged. It's getting clunky! My college laptop lasted me 4.5 years but even that was pushing it. (The battery had been replaced twice!) I figure even though technology basically falls all over itself with consistent and frequent upgrades, it would be nice to have something that could last double what my current laptop has!

Per suggestions from friends, I waited a few months for a much-expected upgrade to the MacBook Airs. And today, they were announced! I plan on heading to one of the four Apple stores in the city tomorrow after work to hopefully get one. The best part? I can use my Employee Purchase Program option to get 6% off! Not quite sales tax, but I'll take any savings I can get. (The money for this purchase has been earmarked since I sold my car prior to moving.) I can't wait to finally make the big switch! :) Oh, and it might help me feel a bit better about my apartment hunting frustrations...haha.

Are you Mac or PC? Have you made the switch? Any suggestions for a new Mac user?

Sunday, July 17, 2011


This is exactly how I'm feeling right now. This round of apartment hunting in the city is not going well for me. I've sent out over 30 emails and so far I've only seen four places. I've had appointments that got cancelled last minute, or ones that suddenly wouldn't reply, or sounded great but then the people would tell me they lived above a noisy bar...

Of those four, I fell absolutely in love with the most recent one I saw which was located in the Upper West Side. After expressing my interest, they finally informed me yesterday that the room had been filled, which I figured when I didn't hear back from them right away. Darn.

The listings for August 1 are not plentiful in the areas I'm considering. I've even expanded my search parameters and even then, not much is coming up. For some reason, there's something about September 1 that is already managing to be more a "I should move then" point: I have an acquaintance moving to the city at the end of August who needs a place for September 1, I have two friends who are currently roommates that will need a third as of September 1 and I have a coworker on another floor who is moving to the city and needs a roommate for September 1. To top it all off, there are ALREADY listings on Craigslist for September 1, which is unheard of in the city as turn-around is generally 2-3 weeks out and never over a month!

Since it's getting later in the month, I'm starting to toy with the following ideas:
  • Sublet or sleep on friends' couches for the month of August and see about moving in with any of the people I know above (and yes, storing most of my stuff for a month)
  • Find a 2-bedroom for August 1 and pay the full rent while looking for someone to move in on September 1 (again, possibly the two who need roommates from above)
Obviously, the first option would be the cheapest, even with storage facility costs. The second option...would require a lot of money: full rent, security deposit, potential broker's fee and then sharing the costs of furnishing a place (though I know this can be done cheaply via Craigslist/Ikea). My parents have expressed the fact that they would be happy to help me out if I decide to go that route, which of course makes me incredibly grateful.

The hardest part about this is the fact that I really do not want to have to move TWICE in the next month. I already moved across the country, crashed with friends for a week and have been in two different sublets since the end of March. However, if all this headache and frustration leads me to a fantastic situation with a long-term lease...I think I can manage. Right?

I'm still crossing my fingers that something will magically appear and I'll be able to sign onto a lease in a share for August 1.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer Love (and Ramblings)

So I've been rather M.I.A for the past month. I blame summer in this glorious city that I'm still completely enamored-head-over-heels-in-love-with-can't-get-enough-of! I just passed my three months of living here and this place continues to feel like home every day. :)

My social calendar is still crazy and on top of hanging out with my new friends a few times a week as well as now-weekly happy hours with coworkers, June also included a trip to Atlantic City/the Jersey Shore for a girls' weekend, dog sitting on the Upper East Side (for free in exchange for staying a block away from Central Park...I had NO CLUE how many people own dogs in this city, those 7-8am walks definitely opened my eyes!), my Dad visiting twice on business and my Mom visiting for an extended weekend! July is already turning into a similar busy month since my brother is coming to visit this weekend, a girlfriend is coming on the 22nd and my Dad's coming for business again on the 28th. No complaints here, though, because I love visitors! (I also got the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with the lovely Single Filez during her NYC vacation...we had a blast walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and eating amazing pizza at Grimaldi's! I totally agree with Jon Stewart, by the way. I must be turning into a real New Yorker.)

The plus side was that with my parents visiting for a handful of days during the month, they paid for all our meals out and gave me a bit of spending money (mostly for expensive groceries) so I was able to send $200 to my Roth IRA, $100 to my Travel Fund, $100 to my Gift Fund and still have a bit of leftover to be used as I wish. Yay for still being able to save!

I also just had a fantastic July 4th weekend where three of four nights were spent on rooftops. I will admit, however, that the lack of a grill is just killing me. I miss grilling, let along being able to do it ALL year 'round in San Diego! Oh well, small sacrifices for living in New York.

On another note, my current sublet is up on July 31st so all too soon I'm about to embark on yet another apartment hunt. The hardest part is that I really, REALLY want to stay in my current neighborhood, Hell's Kitchen. A 15 minute walk to work? A bajillion restaurants around the corner? Only 2-3 avenues from almost any subway line? Ability to get on the roof of the building and see all of the fireworks on the Hudson? I love it so much more than I ever expected to, especially since I knew next to nothing about the area before I moved to the city and just happened to get my first sublet here. I've already started sending out some emails to ads on Craigslist and all my friends know that I need a place for August 1st, so we'll see if anything comes from that. I just need to heed all the advice I previously wrote about and try to be patient with this crazy process again. Oh, and keep an open mind about possibly moving to a different neighborhood. Even though it hurts my heart just thinking about moving away from here!

How's your summer going? Also, shout-out to a sweet reader (hi, Dee!) who emailed me and made me realize how long it's been since I posted. :)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Being Social

When I moved to NYC, I only had one very good friend in the city. I've met a few new people through blogs and got back in touch with acquaintances. Most of my weekends, however, had been spent on my own since a lot of people I know go home (New Jersey) for the weekends or already have very busy lives...

Then I joined a social sport league. And it literally change my life! I got incredibly lucky to be put on a fantastic team where I literally had immediate friends. I've spent all of last TWO weekends in a row hanging out with them. It's been absolutely fantastic! :)

However, of course, all of the social engagements add up quickly. Trust me, you don't even want to know what I spent over my 4-day Memorial Day weekend. I was here on Saturday and here on Monday. But you know what? WORTH. IT. Such a blast, and I'm developing better friendships! All I can say is...good thing my Dad's coming to visit/on a business trip for the next 5 days! ;)

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Saturday in NYC

On Saturday I spent all day with a friend who was in the city visiting her younger sister. I absolutely love it when people visit, even for a day, and who want to do anything/everything...especially EAT! We had a blast catching up and exploring the city. The weather started out great (high 70s, some clouds) and by 4pm it started raining - but that didn't stop us!

Here's what we did, in order, along with my recommendations. See the nifty Google Map at the bottom! :)
  • Hester Street Fair: a small craft/food market in the Lower East Side. I'd never heard of it but this was our meeting spot at 1pm. I'm not much of a crafts person...but I was all about the food! After having only a light breakfast, I couldn't resist the descriptions of the empanadas at the La Sonrisa stall. The coconut curry chicken empanada was AMAZING and I'm definitely going back just for that! It was $3 and worth every cent. I also had the pulled pork slider for $3.50 because I was hungry and it was good, but it didn't come close to the empanada!

  • BisousCiao macarons: after lunch, we wandered up and down the awesome, fun streets of LES. We stumbled upon this macaron shop that I've been to before and since my friend had never had one, I said we had to stop in! I got the rose and she got the lavender and honey. A fantastic dessert! Macarons are $2.50 each. When you buy a box of any size, starting at 6 for $15, they package them up beautifully and it makes you feel like you just walked out of an overpriced boutique...which you basically did!

  • Delicatessen: We then made our way from LES to SoHo in search of afternoon refreshments aka cocktails. We were hoping for something outdoors or at least with an open-air concept. The wait at Delicatessen wasn't bad and ended up with a table right next to the sidewalk which was perfect, especially when it rained for 30 minutes during our time. We split an order of the truffle parmesean fries and I had an outstanding lychee-ginger martini. It was exactly what I was looking for! Light and sweet, but not overpowering. While the service was a bit lacking (the hostess came up to our table at one point and asked us how long we had been there, basically trying to kick us out even though we were clearly eating/drinking) and the place was packed, it was really fun. I'd go back here for the fries and the martini! My share was $20. We tipped well because our awesome waiter saved us from the hostess and basically told her off. Win.

  • Shopping near Broadway in SoHo: A quick gander through some stores on/near Broadway in SoHo. It gets crazy with tourists and locals alike, so head down the side streets. Check out some of the street vendors off of Broadway for interesting pieces. I've bought good quality, semi-pricey necklaces and bracelets (~$30 each) here before and there are a lot of unique finds!

  • Dinosaur BBQ: My friend (plus her younger sister and entourage) were determined to go here. Even with the daunting wait time of TWO HOURS! I'd never been to an actual BBQ restaurant before. This was a blast! The bar definitely took some of our money during the waiting time and I'd highly recommend the Donkey Punch which is rum + fruit punch served in a mason jar. For $8, it was more than enough to last me through the wait AND dinner! For dinner, I got the 1/4 rack BBQ pork ribs. It came with 4 ribs, a small piece of cornbread and two sides (I had the mac & cheese and vegetable which was collard greens) for a mere $10.50! And I had leftovers! Definitely worth the wait time. Note: I learned via Yelp that they DO take reservations, which is fairly new.

View A Saturday in NYC in a larger map

Friday, May 20, 2011

Debit Card Fraud Victim

I was a victim of debit card fraud last week.

This is the first time it's ever happened to me. On May 9th, I had received a call that had something to do with a card, but I ignored it because I thought it was the occasional solicitation from my old credit card. Less learned: always listen to messages in their entirety, even if they are automated!

Over the next two days, my debit card was denied at two stores and then at the ATM when I tried to get cash. That's weird... I immediately called the customer service line for my debit card. I went through a whole bunch of automated checks and through a list of recent transactions which I verified. They were all ones I had made, nothing out of the ordinary, so then my card worked again.

There had been zero fradulent transactions on my card. I would have caught it immediately because I check my bank account every single day! My card was working again and I still diligently checked my account daily. Then this Monday, there was definitely a fradulent charge when I checked my account in the morning...

Not only do I not eat at McDonald's, but I would never go to one in some suburb of Istanbul, Turkey and spend $30 there! Everything clicked right away and I called my bank. They had been correct from the beginning - someone had somehow got ahold of my debit card number and pin. In talking to the customer service agent, they told me that the person had tried to buy $400 (!) worth of groceries in Istanbul. That was the day they closed my card. They also tried to go to two gas stations but all of those charges were caught and denied before they could hit my account. The McDonald's one happened to slip through after I unknowingly thought everything was okay. (Granted, up until this point I had never actually spoken with a real human about what was happening. That clarification would have helped immensely.) The CSA immediately closed my debit card and had a new one issued. I then talked to someone in the Customer Claims Department and have since filled out a form in order to get the $28.36 refunded.

The scariest part of all this? I have absolutely no idea how someone got my information! Was it skimmed from my bank-specific ATM inside the pharmacy near my apartment? Or was it from the RFID/wireless identity theft that I've been hearing about? I have never used my debit card for online purchases, so I could immediately rule that out. I still have my card, it wasn't lost or stolen, and I've never shared my PIN with anyone. I also never use the "PayPass" function on my debit card, where I can wave my card over a scanner for a small purchase and pay that way, because someone once told me that's an easy way for identity theft to happen. From now on I'll only draw cash at the bank or maybe even go inside to the teller. It's baffling, actually. I know this happens and it sucks. Technology is advancing all the time. And this is what we get!

(Yes, I now have two of those RFID sleeves as seen above. They seem to be widely available online. My Mom sent me her extras! Not sure if they work, but hey, peace of mind. Also? My bank rocks. They immediately knew what was going on!)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dear CapitalOne

Dear CapitalOne,

I'm breaking up with you. You were my first credit card ever. I signed up for you when I landed my first job the month after college graduation. Since I had no credit history, you gave me a $500 limit. I was excited because I knew how to handle you! After only three months, you increased my limit to $750. I had read so many personal finance articles on the topic and every 6 months thereafter I called about credit limit increases.

Which you denied me. Every single time. Even though I've always paid my balance in full and on time every month. I called and called, but you didn't listen.

Almost three years later, this is getting a little ridiculous! So, I took matters into my own hands. I had been receiving offers from other credit cards but had always just put them in the shredder. One day I decided not to shred the offer...and I went online to apply for a shiny, new credit card.

Now I'm the proud owner of a Chase Freedom Card. With rewards! And a $100 bonus if I spend $500 in the first few months! And over 5x the credit limit! Yay! (Of course, I'm sure I'll never go anywhere near that limit in a single month...but it's good to know it's there.)

CapitalOne, you are now being banished to the depths of my wallet. I'll keep you active since, after all, you were my first credit card and I can never get rid of you completely. You're part of my history! So, you'll be swiped once every few months to keep you on the end of my string. But I really could care less about you.

Hello, Freedom!!!!

[image via]

Sunday, May 1, 2011

NYC By The Numbers

Last week, I had officially been in NYC for an entire month. Since it's now May, I am going to try to get my budget back on track...keyword is TRY because I've had such an influx of cash recently from my first two paychecks earning a higher salary to selling my car to a gift from my parents for their tax purposes. Here was my April spending breakdown. Keep in mind that this is an expensive city and I also wanted to let myself have as much fun as possible!
  • Rent: $1,100
    This included utilities, internet and cable at the one-month sublet.

  • Metrocard: $104
    Unlimited monthly. Starting in May this is pre-tax through work!

  • Cell: $30
    Still on my parents' plan, I pay for the data portion of my iPhone.

  • Groceries: $92.73
    WOW...I can't believe how much I spent on groceries! Mostly breakfast foods, a few trips to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods for quick dinner meals and snacks. Groceries are expensive here!

  • Restaurants: $380.90
    I expected this to be high. I ate out for almost every single meal except breakfast during the week. This includes Starbucks/Dunkin Donuts stops, lots of meals with old/new friends, trying a lot of food trucks...and some even had leftovers that would last me 2 additional meals!

  • Alcohol: $191.63
    I knew this was going to be high, too! My close friends in the city are solid weekend drinkers and I spent two weekends with them. I also bought three bottles of wine (one as a thank-you gift) and there was one week I went out for drinks four days in a row! It's been worth it for my social life, though. :)

  • Miscellaneous: $99.27
    Everything else. Taxis, quite a few toiletries, indoor rock climbing, a case for my iPhone, a trip to Target, flowers and laundry.

  • Savings: $600
    Regular $200/month to my Roth IRA and then I sent $200 to my Travel Fund and $200 to my Gift Fund. It feels good to increase my savings amounts! (I'm also contributing 4% to get the 4% match on my new employer's Roth 401k, but that gets taken out of my paycheck before I see it.)
So even with all my out-of-control spending, I still managed to save money this month AND I have a few hundred dollars leftover! This was due to the fact that I got paid for 5 weeks of work instead of 4 since I started on March 28 (I get paid bi-monthly now) so my first paycheck included a week's worth of retro-pay. Side note: I did do a lot of shopping as well, to the tune of $313. All of that came from my remaining bonus money from my old job and some of the money I got from selling my car instead of out of my regular budget since I generally don't shop much!

Still, this feels amazing. I'm ready for May to be a little less crazy with spending...but hey, if I can afford a bit of lifestyle inflation in a pricier city, why not?! As long as I continue to budget and save consistently. :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lessons from the Big Apple

I've officially lived in NYC for one month! It's absolutely amazing and I don't know if the honeymoon phase will ever end. :) I thought I would share some lessons I've learned so far:

  • Own GREAT walking shoes. You will walk everywhere! Your feet will definitely be sore! I have a pair of sneakers and a pair of flat boots (with inserts) that are lifesavers, especially since I'm a bit far from the subway but I live close enough to walk to work.
  • Flowers are ridiculously cheap. Two blocks away from where I lived you can buy 2 dozen roses for $8! Men and women, you can afford to ALWAYS buy flowers!
  • The bus is a completely underrated mode of transportation. During the summer it'll be my choice over the sweltering subway stations!
  • My iPhone is invaluable. Google Maps gets me anywhere, whether it's by walking or by public transportation.
  • Walk on the right. Sidewalks, stairs, etc. The other 8 million+ New Yorkers will thank you. Oh, and let them off first on the subway/bus!
  • The weather is fickle. Be prepared for anything at all times! I have an extra pair of socks and an umbrella in my purse at all times.
  • Yes, it can be a lonely city - but you CAN and WILL meet new people. Reach out to anyone and everyone. I have, and so far, it has been great! People will surprise you in a good way :)
  • Cheap food is abundant. Yes, most of it isn't the healthiest...but $5 for a combo platter from the Halal cart near my work lasts me 2-3 meals depending on how hungry I am! (I do get my fill of fruit/veggies from here, though.)
  • Re: cheap food, I have an obsession with food carts. Shout out to New York Street Food.
  • Ear plugs are fantastic, especially with loud roommates and/or a window directly on the street. Case in point.
  • 99% of the city residents are also transplants. I randomly met a native San Diegan in Union Square on Easter!
  • Times Square is a tourist trap. I avoid it like the plague...but maybe that's just my "I-live-in-NYC" mentality ;)
  • Don't buy a lot of stuff if you aren't close to your apartment. Dragging a bunch of bags on the subway is not fun! I try to stick to the one-reusable-bag-only rule.
  • Apartment hunting is a little ridiculous. While using a broker seems expensive, it would be so much less of a headache - so try to look for a place with at least one other person instead of just a room somewhere!
  • Always look around and up. There is so much to see and there is also a lot of amazing architecture!
  • Every neighborhood and borough has a different feel. Check them all out and just get lost. It's really fun and you never know what areas you'll end up really liking.
  • No malls = frustrating to go shopping because all the stores aren't in one location.
I could tell you so much more...but I think this is a decent start!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Partyin' Partyin'

The past two weekends and the week in between found my social calendar PACKED and I loved every minute of it! Going out every night and brunch every day on the weekends, going for drinks with my upcoming roommate last Tuesday and hanging out with two Australian backpackers for the past five days who are friends of one of the girls in the current sublet. (Yes, I'm finally getting along with one of them and yes, being social = expensive but worth every penny!)

That also means I've been bitten by the international travel bug...dreams of London in September and perhaps Munich in October, and Thailand one year from December?! I forgot how amazing it is to connect with fellow travelers. I was incredibly impressed that they saved up for their year-long adventure for two years prior to embarking. Hooray for savings and it's turned into the adventure of a lifetime for them! Hmm...I wonder if I could convince one of my best friends to go traveling together for a whole year. Now that's a true test of friendship.

I got my first New York care package from my Mom! It included my favorite Cadbury Mini Eggs, a second towel, refund checks, a new necklace, two tank tops, face wash and a slew of mail. Yay! So random but always things I need. Mom knows best for sure. :)

Oh and remember when I mentioned getting a gym membership? Well I got the corporate discount last week so I paid $50 for April ($29 unavoidable processing fee and $21 April pro-rate) and I'll pay $54/month going forward for an all-access, one-year pass. I went today and while yes, gyms are very expensive here, my discount is an amazing deal and totally worth it! Just glad I didn't have to pay it all up-front. Perfect. :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

"Found" Money

I have various savings funds in my ING Direct account. The biggest one, of course, is my Emergency Fund. I have a few others like my Travel Fund and Gift Fund that get used on a semi-regular basis. Then... I have other smaller accounts. Some of which I sort-of forgot about over the past few months, especially the two related to my car: Car Maintenance and Car Insurance.

Clearly, I don't need either of those anymore since I sold my car! My Car Maintenance Fund has $650 in it and my Car Insurance Fund has $930. I was canceling some automatic transfers from my checking account which included those two and made me remember to check how much was in them. Oh, and there's the $615 in my 25th Birthday/Christian Louboutin Fund which I clearly never spent and after some thinking, I just can't bring myself to buy such expensive heels! (Maybe one day. Because I AM madly in love with them!)

I'm not sure what to do with some of this money. Save it? Spend it? Half and half? I'm thinking of making some near-future pricey purchases like a new laptop (my first Mac?) and getting a few items tailored for work like pants (~$70 each) and a skirt.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Apartment Hunting in NYC

So I managed to secure the current (one-month) sublet that I'm currently in with the crazy girls while I was still in San Diego. (Yes, they still smoke, but it seems to have calmed down some - maybe because they are starting to show the place?) Anyway, that was an effort in and of itself to find this sublet while I wasn't in the city but I got really lucky, plus I didn't want to sleep on my friends' couch for an entire month! I figured once I arrived in New York, actually being here would be a huge advantage to finding a more permanent place, a room in an already furnished apartment where I could just sign onto a 1-year lease.

Wrong. Very, very wrong.

A week and a half after I got here, I started looking for shares. A share = your own room in an apartment aka not living by yourself. (Not the same terminology used on the West Coast!) I sent e-mails, I posted on Facebook, I contacted every person I could think of who might have connections in the city. I also figured out a budget and stuck within that range.

And I scoured Craigslist like it was my job. Which is almost was! I had a Craigslist window open on my work computer and would refresh it every hour. I would come home from work and continue to check it in between gym/errands/socializing. Whenever something that sounded decent in the areas I wanted showed up, with or without pictures, I immediately sent an email. I had a short paragraph written about myself, my schedule and my habits that I would copy/paste into each e-mail. I would possibly ask a question or two, inquire about pictures (if there weren't any on the listing) and then ask to schedule a viewing.

Do you know how many e-mails I sent out? 28.

Do you know how many replies I got? 7.

Do you know how many apartments I actually saw? 4.

That's right. I only saw FOUR! Below is the breakdown of each one. Most of the time I just wouldn't get a solid feeling so I would pass based on that. Also, whenever I would get an address from a potential place, I would immediately put it into the Bed Bug Registry website to see if the building had ever had issues. I chose not to look at two places because last year over half the units in each building were infested! GROSS! Not something I wanted to have to worry about.

Apartment 1
Location: Chelsea
Price: $1,175/month (+$60 utilities)
Pros: LOCATION! This was a corner unit on a main avenue and street in the heart of Chelsea. Super cute area, very close to the subway, across the street from a grocery store plus had views of the Empire State Building. The living room and kitchen/dining area were an open plan and LARGE.
Cons: It smelled of smoke when I walked in. The available bedroom was TINY, even by Manhattan standards. It could just fit a full bed and a really small nightstand. There was a closet in the room but it was also tiny/cramped. The room was also directly next to the front door and landing for the floor, plus it was on a very busy/noisy street. Turns out the two other girls in the place were also on similar schedules to me which makes the bathroom situation complicated. It was also awkward because there were three other girls checking it out at the same time and they were trying to compete for the attention of the girls who were showing the room. I've never dealt with a situation like that before for a RENTAL but hey - welcome to Manhattan! ;)
Verdict: PASS

Apartment 2
Location: Upper West Side (low 70s)
Price: $1,075/month (+$45/month utilities)
Pros: Good location, close to to the subway and not too far from where my friends live in the UWS. Two blocks from a Trader Joe's! Available room was very big! It could fit a full or queen bed, wardrobe, desk and dresser plus have space to move around in.
Cons: Very old building which had had bedbug issues in the past, cramped bathroom (I tripped over the toilet walking in!), old everything and gross/moldy tiles in the bathroom. Turns out the two girls who were currently living there were considering moving out in two months as well, even though they advertised for someone to sign onto the 1-year lease after the sublet period was over. I just didn't get a good feeling from this place.
Verdict: PASS

Apartment 3
Location: Upper West Side (high 90s)
Price: $800/month (+$75 utilities)
Pros: CHEAP! Decent location, in between two subway lines and still relatively close to my friends in the same neighborhood.
Cons: Another old apartment, weird bathroom setup, TINY bedroom again and also directly next to the front door. The girl needed someone immediately (as in, sign the paperwork the next day in order to avoid it being put on the market by a broker and to avoid paying a broker's fee!) and there were about 12 people looking at the place! It was like vultures, even worse than the Chelsea place and I didn't even get to talk to the girl who was looking for roommates.
Verdict: PASS

Apartment 4
Location: Hell's Kitchen/Clinton/Midtown West
Price: $1,060 (including utilities)
Pros: Very clean apartment, renovated kitchen (brand new stainless steel appliances!) and bathroom, decent-sized 9x12 furnished bedroom including air conditioner, small closet and some built-in shelves plus lots of under-bed storage, on the same block as my current sublet, laid-back/quiet male roommate who works a lot but was friendly and a NON-SMOKER! The building is kept in good shape and the entranceway/lobby had all new tile work.
Cons: 3-month sublet (I wanted to sign a 1-year lease somewhere to have a more permanent place), no cable, no dining or coffee table. Really? That's what I could come up with?! Those are not deal breakers at ALL but more "nice-to-haves" that I'd definitely give up in exchange for a fantastic place!
Verdict: MINE!

I went to bed last night with a really solid feeling about the place. I knew I had found "the one"...even if it's just for a few months! I got up this morning and immediately sent an email to them letting them know I was very interested if they thought I would be a good fit, and not 10 minutes later I received a "HOORAY! We liked you too!" reply that make me super happy. So, yes, I'll have to move again in a few months, but I feel like I found a gem. Especially when they told me they had received over 20 responses on the first day alone and weeded through them to find the "good people." :) Goodbye, crazy-drunk-smoking-girls that I'm currently living with. You were good while you lasted!

The advice I would give someone looking for a share in Manhattan? Just keep looking! Something will come along. Yes, it's incredibly frustrating and a lot of work, but it's worth it and it will work out in the end! Oh and have a good write-up about about yourself. That definitely made me stand out, from what people told me. Be willing to compromise! Whether that's on price, size, location, length of lease/sublet...something has to give at the end of the day. Last but not least: TRUST YOUR GUT. You will know. :)

[image via]

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New York City Life: Some Updates

[via weheartit]

I'm still on the hunt for an apartment. It's frustrating but I know it'll work out! I've seen three places including the one I briefly wrote about in my last post and I have two more scheduled for this week. Plus I'm sending replying to all the possible Craigslist ads I can, so it really is taking up a big chunk of time.

I'm still eating out for 2 meals a day. (I've been keeping bagels/fruit at work for breakfast though!) It's still fun, even though sometimes I do feel guilty. Sometimes. ;) Oh and I'm in love with vanilla chais from Dunkin Donuts! I had one last Friday and another on Sunday...and could totally go for one now thanks to the rain/thunderstorm. Good thing I'm feeling lazy tonight!

My social life is...okay. One of my best girlfriends lives in city so I'm always included in her and her roommates' plans, but they were both out of town the last two weekends! So, I've been reaching out to other people I know of. I had a blast meeting up (twice!) with Leslie of 27 and Frugal recently and I'm also hoping to meet up with other bloggers soon, like Carolyn and Jessica! (Those last two blogs make me want to turn from a PF blogger to a regular blogger...hmm, food for thought?!) I've also sent e-mails to old friends who live in the city and a family friend's nephew/his girlfriend who said they'd be more than happy to help me make some connections in the city. It's definitely an adjustment going from having a consistent social life (friends, book club, bootcamps, etc) to basically being alone. Don't get me wrong, I am LOVING this time of exploring the city, doing what I want, eating what I want and relishing the time to myself. But I'm a people-person so it IS tough! It will pass though as I start to get to know more people and join things.

Speaking of joining things, I am planning on joining New York Sports Club. I believe I get a discount through work, but I think I have pay for a whole YEAR up front. That'll be about $800! EEK! However, for me it's totally worth it. I loved the Total Body Conditioning class I took and the Cardio Kickboxing was okay (the class had a substitute instruction so maybe that was why), but they have such a variety that I know I'll be happy there. I watched one of the Boxing classes and I definitely want to try it, but they seem tough to get it. (You have to call at 6am when they open or something to be lucky to get a spot!) I'll be doing this in the next month or two once I actually start getting my regular paychecks at work. Until then, lots of walking and occasionally dancing the night away!

By the way, I'd love to hear any of your advice on moving to a new city, meeting people and adjusting to new (yet familiar to me) surroundings. I definitely can't wait to have a more permanent place in the city. I can't even get mail here because I don't know how, hah!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Week One and a Half

This city is a dream come true. Some days I feel like I'm on vacation instead of actually living here! I definitely can't believe I've already been here for a week and a half. It's feeling like home, but maybe that's just because I'm so comfortable navigating through the city on my own? It's just so familiar from all my prior visits!

Work has been going well. I'm still training, I'm still having technology issues and I'm still having a good time with my coworkers. The hours are great (8:30am-5pm) and soon I'll be receiving my keyfob so I can occasionally work from home!

I moved into the sublet last Thursday. That...has been interesting. Turns out, the girls smoke IN the apartment, when I had been told they only smoke outside. As a non-smoker, this is disgusting to me! Luckily, my room doesn't smell and neither does my closet (which is outside my room) or the bathroom. But hey, this is their apartment and after all, I'm only here for a month. The girls also party frequently, come home drunk, turn on ALL the lights in the apartment and are very loud. Unfortunately, they just aren't my type of people. However, the neighborhood (Hell's Kitchen) is fantastic, I can walk to work in 15 minutes and the subway in about 8 minutes. There's also NO overlap in terms of showering/getting ready, which is a big plus!

I knew this transition month would be expensive, especially in terms of food. I have been going out to eat or doing take-out (no delivery for me yet, I'm not that lazy!) for almost every meal. Since April 1 I've spent almost $80 on that! Last week I did make a point of buying bagels and cottage cheese for breakfast, which I keep at work, so at least that is helping a bit. But being a foodie, NYC is like mecca. I love trying different food carts at lunch (quick, cheap and I always have leftovers!) and trying restaurants in my area. The fact that the girls I'm staying with don't own any pots/pans doesn't exactly help matters! But you know what? I'm actually enjoying it! I know I can afford to eat like this because I have money saved up from my bonus/tax refund/sale of my car...and after packing my lunch 95% of the time for the past 2.5 years, I'm okay with dining out for every meal for ONE month. :) (Crossing my fingers that it's not more than that!)

One of my friends in the city got me a free week pass to New York Sports Club. They are all over the city, including one right near my work. I've gone twice already to different classes (a weightlifting class and a kickboxing class) and I definitely plan on signing up! I might try out one other gym just to see what their classes are like and because my work gives a decent discount to a few different ones. But I'll most likely sign up for NYSC using the corporate discount which should come to $70/month. Compared to my old 24 Hour Fitness Costco membership, it's ridiculously expensive. However, apparently this is a SOLID rate according to people I've talked to! Plus with the salary increase I got with my new position, I can afford that! (And hey, I walk everywhere and have been going to the gym so that will definitely counteract all the eating I'm doing!)

I've also started my apartment hunt! I'm looking to move into an already furnished apartment (either one or two other roommates) with either a furnished or unfurnished bedroom for May 1. I definitely want to stay on the west side of Manhattan since this is where my job is and where my friends are, plus commuting from most east side neighborhoods would be an absolute PAIN! I've worked out a maximum budget based on what my friends pay for their apartment in their fantastic location and so far, I definitely think I can come under that! I've been emailing places on Craigslist daily, and tonight I went to see my first one. The location was excellent (in Chelsea), one avenue from the subway and the rent sounded decent. However, upon arrival and the three flights up (not a deal breaker for me), the room was way smaller than the pictures, it was directly next to the front door of the apartment and it's on a very loud, main street. The place also smelled of smoke, not sure if that was from the current people living their or wafting from somewhere else, but obviously that IS a deal breaker! There were three of us there checking out the room/apartment and the two girls who live their currently also get up almost exactly when I do so that would be an issue since there's only one bathroom. That place was a big no for me, but I definitely learned what to look out for and more about what to ask (laundry, bedbugs/rodents, street noise). Obviously, I also have to be absolutely ready to take a place if I really like it, though! Since it's still the beginning of April, I know a lot of rooms will still be coming available so I'm not worried. Next!

I still have more to blog about but I'm getting tired and want to spend some time reading before bed. More soon! Have a great rest of your week. :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 3 - New Job!

Today was my first day at my new job! I got up early to get ready, take the subway and give myself time to grab breakfast before. I spent $11 at Starbucks...then found out we were given breakfast at the orientation! (I bet you if I hadn't bought breakfast, there wouldn't have been breakfast offered. That's how these things work, right? Haha.) After watching a PowerPoint with a few others new hires and getting my badge, I finally went to my building. Apparently I arrived earlier than they expected, since my manager wasn't around and I didn't have login credentials for my computer!

Of course, there were a lot of other technology issues throughout the day (par for the course, I went through the same thing on my first day of my previous job!) but I did get some training in with one of my new coworkers. Everyone else seemed to have their own lunch plans and I was working with IT on some stuff, so I bought lunch ($4.30 for a soup) and then trained for most of the afternoon. But I also twiddled my thumbs quite a bit since I couldn't log in to ANYTHING relating to HR and only a few applications by the end of the day. Oh well, such is life and it's a good thing I had my Kindle in my bag!

Also, my coworkers also seem fun and outgoing. Such a change from my old job and they are all actually in my age range, late 20s to early 30s! This is definitely an environment I needed. And I'm ready to be fully trained even though they warned me that'll take about 6 weeks. After work, I headed back to my friends' place, replenished my subway pass for the week ($20), picked up a package my Mom had sent me (the rest of my work clothes that I couldn't fit in my suitcase - yay!) and then bought some overpriced groceries for $20.64. I picked up mini bagels, cottage cheese, a greek yogurt, frozen edamame, two of those 90-second rice-in-a-bag, and a bag of chips - just a few things to tide me over.

Well, it's already way past my "new" bedtime, since my job starts an hour later here and my commute is shorter. Tomorrow I'm picking up the keys and actually seeing my sublet which I'll move into later this week! Can't wait to stop living out of a suitcase/on a couch and actually have my own room!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 1.5 in NYC

I'm finally in New York!

The last few weeks have been crazy but thankfully I got everything done that needed to be, including selling my car two days before I left. I never want to sell a car again after that experience!

The day of traveling was a little crazy since it started with getting up at 4:30am to get rid of the final few things in my room and head to the airport. Once I arrived at JFK, it took 50 MINUTES to get my suitcase and then an hour and a half to take the SuperShuttle ($25) to get to the Upper West Side. (I'm staying with friends until I move into my Midtown West sublet on April 1.)

After feeling a bit overwhelmed with everything, I went out with friends last night. We went to a club in the Lower East Side which was a BLAST (I spent $38 which included my share of the cab rides, cover charge, coat check and a drink) and got home at 3am. I crashed immediately and slept until almost noon! That was an easy way to get myself used to the time difference. ;) After bagels with my friend ($8, I paid for both of us), the rest of the day was spent wandering around the city on my own as my friend wasn't feeling too well. I went shopping and splurged on a gorgeous B. Makowsky bag ($146 after sale and Macy's 10% tourist discount!), figured out where I need to go tomorrow for my New Hire Orientation which is in a different building from where I'll actually be working and just walked around. I popped into the gorgeous New York Public Library which I had never visited before, found some cute coffee shops on various cross streets to check out in the future and hit up a small farmer's market for some apples as snacks. I'm living out of my suitcase and still feeling a bit like this is an extended vacation instead of my new life, but I'm loving it so far!

My finances are in a bit of a disarray. I'm trying to keep track but it's a bit difficult! I've had a lot of money going in/out from various things...definitely looking forward to a regular (and larger!) paychecks starting next month. On top of my finances are my eating habits and working out habits...which basically disappeared over my last two weeks in San Diego save for a few bootcamp classes and very few meals cooked at home to use up the last of my groceries. I've basically paid for every meal out for the last 4-5 days, which is not normal for me at all! But hey, I guess that comes with a big move. I'm hoping April will be better once I'm in my sublet where the kitchen is huge, fully stocked and where I don't feel like I'm taking over my friends' space.

By the's COLD here! My body was so acclimated to the amazing San Diego weather after 6.5 years that this will take a while, but I do have all the right clothing for the chilly (but sunny!) weather. Just have to make sure I stay bundled up when I'm outside. ;)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Time is Flying!

My last few weeks in San Diego have been flying by! I can't believe I only have 8 days left... My Mom came down from Saturday through Wednesday to help me pack and purge. That helped me get rid of a LOT of stuff! (Who knew I was a card hoarder?!) My life got consolidated into 11 small boxes, a duffel bag suitcase from Costco and a large backpack. I'm taking the suitcase and backpack with me to NY, and everything else will be shipped once I get settled and find a place!

My to-do list is very close to being done. I got through so much with my Mom and I can't thank her enough for her generosity/love/support during all of this. I'm not the most competent packer and she definitely turned me into one over the past few days! (She also gave me $100 to be used as "NYC spending money" for the first week or so while I'm there on cabs/lunch/snacks/etc. LOVE!) The big items I have left from my list are selling my car, finding a sublet in NY (might be easier once I'm there but I'm waiting to hear back from a few places) and canceling my car/renter's insurance. I also made $153 from selling various furniture items on Craigslist which will definitely help me out over the next week or so, including covering a hefty dry cleaning bill. And to top it off I'm throwing a dinner party/potluck this weekend and am really excited about it! Almost all my friends are coming and I plan on making this because, well, I want to try something new and delicious.

Just for fun, here's a picture of me and the 10 boxes that went into storage! (The 11th one is my small flatscreen TV which I'll put in on the last day.)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Really Big To-Do List

Ever since I accepted the job, I've been coming up with an incredibly long to-do list of what I need to get done before I move!

  • Give 2 weeks' notice - DONE!
  • Book a one-way flight (EEK!) - DONE!
  • Get American citizenship - DONE!
  • Get car passenger mirror replacement (it was stolen last weekend, JUST the mirror piece!) - DONE! $20.32 for the part, they didn't charge me labor because it took less than 2 minutes :)
  • Notify landlord of departure - DONE!
  • Apply for a U.S. Passport - DONE! (Had it expedited and just waiting for it to arrive.)
  • Accept a lot of lunch invitations from coworkers - DONE!
  • Plan a goodbye party - DONE!
  • Find a sublet/temporary housing in NYC - In Progress
  • Clean my car inside & out - DONE!
  • Sell my car (EEK!) - In Progess
  • Sell the few furniture items I own - DONE!
  • Donate anything/everything (books, clothes, etc) - DONE!
  • Pack what I'm keeping but don't immediately need into boxes - DONE!
  • Cancel: car insurance, renter's insurance & AAA membership - In Progress
  • Forward my mail (to my parents' house because I don't have a set address in NY yet!) - DONE!
  • Transfer $$$ from my savings to my checking to prepare for security deposit, first & last month's rent, potential broker's fee, etc - The money I get from selling my car will help with this.
There are probably more things that I haven't thought of yet but they will reveal themselves as time goes on! It's a daunting list and I'm glad I have two weeks in between my last day of work and when I fly to NY to get it all done. :)

Monday, February 28, 2011

I Got the Job!

It's official...


It took a bit longer than expected. It's slightly less money than we initially discussed. But I'm okay with that. The benefits are amazing (4 weeks vacation plus sick & work-from-home days, 401k matching up to 4% with immediate full vesting, solid health/dental/vision, gym discounts, etc), the people I interviewed with were awesome and this honestly was one of the easiest decisions I've ever made. :)

I was able to negotiate my start date to the end of March, so I have just under a month left in San Diego before the huge cross-country move. It's going to be a whirlwind and I'll be a New Yorker before I know it!

I am so excited. My dream is now reality! I'm on a cloud and I don't think it'll actually feel real until I'm in the middle of that pulsing, energizing, constantly-moving-always-on city. :) My to-do list just became insane but luckily I have an amazing support system and a decent amount of time (and luckily money saved, since there's no relocation package with the position) to make this huge life change.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

U.S. Citizenship

In case you don't know, I'm a Canadian citizen. I was born in Toronto and when I was 10, my family relocated to Seattle for my Dad's job. We've been resident aliens (aka green card holders) since I was 12. Since all of our green cards are expiring in 2012, we decided to finally become dual citizens.

We downloaded the application forms and over Thanksgiving, spent about two days filling them out and reviewing. The hardest part was listing every single time we've left the country since arriving. You guys, we are AVID TRAVELERS. This was ridiculous and we had to use additional pages! Not only to you have to list the dates you were out of the country for, but where you went and how many days you were gone. When we thought we were done, I ended up remembering about two trips that we all managed to miss. What a process, but it was really fun to go "Oh yeah, remember that?!" :) Applications and fees were sent in at the beginning of December.

By early January I received a letter telling me to report for fingerprinting, the first part of the process. It was relatively painless minus the waiting time (no cell phones AT ALL) and the fact that the appointment, of course, was in the middle of my work day. Not even two weeks after that I received my notification to come in for the citizenship exam! It's a week from today and they gave me a basic civics study guide...which takes me all the way back to 8th grade social studies and my high school AP U.S. History classes. The interview/exam is broken down into four components:

  • Civics Test (answer 6 out of 10 questions correctly from a bank of 100 questions)
  • Speaking Test (various questions asked to you by a USCIS officer)
  • Reading Test (read 1 out of 3 sentences to demonstrate English reading ability)
  • Writing Test (write 1 out of 3 sentences to demonstrate English writing ability)
My exam is scheduled for early in the morning and takes approximately 2-3 hours. Time to start some light studying! And yes, the Civics Test is the portion that the majority of Americans would (unfortunately) most likely fail...sad.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

I'm not doing very well on updating my budget this month. I'm keeping a rough track but most of it is in my head. I'm finding that because I don't live paycheck to paycheck, I don't need to be so diligent about tracking my spending. However, I do love knowing what I have leftover at the end of every month and choosing what to do with that extra money! At the end of February I plan on making some charitable donations because I definitely fell off that bandwagon in 2010 and that needs to be remedied.

Also, I need to add a line item to my budget for Kindle purchases. I'm finding some Kindle books are more than their paperback counterparts but there are a lot of $5 ones which I am more than happy to pay for :) I've already read the entire Hunger Games series on it! (I used an Amazon gift card so all the books were free.)

I'm still in the waiting game on the NY job that I interviewed for a few weeks ago. Instead of being stressed and anxious about it, I'm actually at peace: they are a huge company that most likely has much bigger fish to hire than me! The HR rep I've been interacting with has been very positive about the whole situation so I figure it's just a matter of time. :) (But I'll probably call again if I don't get another update by next Tuesday.)

I received my second eBates cash back check! Here's my referral link in case you'd like to sign up. That $20.65 will serve nicely for some of the social events I have on the horizon. I also finally shifted some money around in my bank accounts and sent $2K to my Roth IRA for 2011 thanks to my bonus! I've also done some shopping recently, including three necklaces from various stores, three v-neck t-shirts from H&M ($6 each in lots of colors! LOVE!), a sparkly 3/4-sleeve shrug from Charlotte Russe and a long black sweater, also from H&M. All of those items came to $50 total!

I'm addicted to my iPhone! I've had zero service problems thanks to Verizon so far and I have a lot of apps on it... from games to music to productivity and the best part? They have all been free! Okay, time to stop the random updates/thoughts and read a free book I downloaded from the Kindle store: Life from Scratch. :)

I Had a Valentine!

I've been dating a boy (dubbed Airport Boy thanks to where we met!) for the past month. A few weeks ago he asked me to be his valentine and of course I said yes. He didn't strike me as the romantic or planning type so I figured we would have a low-key night, maybe cook dinner together or watch a movie. Well, that wasn't quite how the night turned out!

On Valentine's Day, he came over all dressed up (he usually wears jeans and plain t-shirts, needless to say I was stunned as he cleans up WELL!) bearing flowers, my favorite wine and a home cooked meal! He pre-made it at his place as a surprise, since his only instruction to me was to be ready by 6pm. We ate dinner at my place where my roommates were seriously impressed.

About an hour later he told me he also had dessert reservations but would give no hints as to where, other than I would need a warm jacket. We hopped in his car and off we drove...and drove...almost 30 minutes later, after my multiple guesses as to where we were headed, we end up at a hotel. I'm thinking there must be a nice restaurant in the hotel with good dessert. Try again! We were going for an evening GONDOLA RIDE!! He had also brought champagne for us to share and there were complimentary chocolate covered strawberries. The weather was absolutely perfect, the blanket that was provided was comfy and the entire hour we were steered around in the water was bliss. We cuddled close and talked the entire time. It was really romantic, a little bit cheesy (he told me he likes all that stuff for special occasions) and a LOT of fun! I've never done an all out Valentine's Day ever so I LOVED it! Plus it's been three years since I last had a valentine which made it extra exciting. :)

[image via]

Friday, February 4, 2011

Taxes + Annual Bonus

I finished my taxes the day after I got all of my forms (a few 1099s and my W-2) and by January 28th I had received a refund of $664 from Federal and $341 from State. I used $15 of that to pay for the state filing at TaxACT, which I've used the last three years to do my taxes. It only took me about an hour to do everything online and my taxes are very easy! So I have a $990 tax refund to figure out what to do with...

On the 31st, I received my annual bonus for work done in 2010. Hooray! It was $7,000 gross (umm, I expected HALF that so what a nice surprise!) and I netted $3,634 after taxes. This is how it's broken down:

$2K, 2011 Roth IRA
$500, E-Fund
$500, Travel Fund
$200, iPhone (for Verizon...finally!)
$40, Case for my new Kindle (Mom bought it as an early Valentine's Day present for me. LOVE!)
$394, Other/Miscellaneous (Gifts for friends, clothing & I want this tote since I bring my lunch to work every day.)

Are you getting a tax refund or do you owe? What are you going to do with your refund if you do get it?

Monday, January 24, 2011

No Problem, Mon: Jamaican Vacation

7-mile beach in Negril

For 10 days at over Christmas and New Year's, my family and I went to Jamaica!

My parents, brother and I flew into Montego Bay and had hired a driver to take us to Negril (~50 miles) over on the west coast of the island. We spent 4 days/5 nights at Country Country, which are beach cottages on the famous 7-mile beach of Negril. Our two cottages were a 30-second walk to the beach and I loved the laid-back feel of the place! Since there were only 24 cottages and not too many guests, we never had to fight for beach chairs or towels. We would have breakfast (included) at the beach bar every morning. My favorite was the banana pancakes with fresh fruit (papaya!) and pineapple juice. A lot of Jamaicans walked the beach selling their wares and we also bought fresh, warm, fluffy coconut bread from the bakery man on a daily basis. Yum! :) The rest of the day was spent wandering the beach, tanning/reading and water sports. That's my Mom and I parasailing in the picture below! Such an amazing 15-20 minutes with the most breathtaking views. It was expensive at $45/person (we negotiated) but my Dad treated us :) In the evenings, we would find restaurants out on the main road for dinner like jerk chicken shacks or (and this isn't a joke!) a place called "Perfect Restaurant" which actually WAS the best meal we had in Negril! (Oxtail with rice and "peas", which is rice and red beans.) Then we would play our favorite card game til 10 or 11pm, sleep until 10am and do it all over again.

I miss this!

Parasailing with Mom...amazing!

Country Country

After the glorious 5 days in Negril (with only 1 day of bad weather where we explored since there wasn't much sun and all the water sports were shut down for the day), we rented a car and drove down to Treasure Beach for the last 5 days. Luckily, my Dad is an amazing driver...because honestly, cars should not be rented in Jamaica! The potholes are EVERYWHERE and they are insane. We even encountered unpaved roads and had to get out and push the car at one point! But, nevertheless, it was fun and with the car we were able to do our own thing and take some neat day trips. We stayed at Jake's in Treasure Beach, which consists of a Mediterranean-style villas on some small cliffs. This was on the south coast and the weather was amazing the entire time! The food at the hotel wasn't the best (except for the Baked Oatmeal every morning!) so we ate at the adjacent restaurant, Jack Sprat's, a lot. We took day trips to Pelican Bar, Y.S. Falls and a small, not-overrun-by-tourists-town called Alligator Pond where we got interviewed live by a local radio station! More reading and more card games, plus making friends at the bar while drinking delicious passion fruit margaritas. New Year's Eve was spent at Jack Sprat's with a bonfire, fireworks, a few hundred tourists/locals and a stage complete with bands and DJs.

That's me reading! Our villa at Jake's.

Treasure Beach

Pelican Bar (ate freshly caught fish & played Dominoes with the owners!)

View from the villa.

This doesn't do the potholes justice, but you get the idea!

It was a phenomenal trip! Jamaica was more expensive than anticipated, mostly because tourism is by-and-far the largest industry for the majority of the country. Still, I definitely want to go back one day!
  • Take as many swimsuits as you own! I only took two and it definitely wasn't enough...even though I only own three. Good thing I had enough beach dresses!

  • Jerk chicken in Jamaica is actually doused with BBQ sauce. It's not the "spicy jerk" that you find in the States! We actually think that type of jerk chicken is found in Trinidad or some of the other Caribbean islands.

  • Jamaicans are incredibly friendly, but of course you only have to be careful that you aren't getting ripped off as a tourist. Even the little convenience stores away from the hotels weren't that cheap! And they really do say "No problem, mon!" all the type... but the whole Bob Marley thing is definitely a tourist attraction, as Jamaicans love their dance hall music.

  • I would stay at both of these places again! Country Country was small, laid-back and low-key while Jake's was more expensive but still IS Jamaica, after all! :)

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