Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, all! Enjoy the weekend and have fun/be safe tonight!

I wore my Halloween outfit to work (cavewoman) and got a lot of compliments on it. I've worn it once before and it's fun. I also had to go to the gas station and the bank after work, so I got strange looks and some laughs. :)

Tonight I am going out with my roommates and some friends to one of the local popular bar areas. I'm excited that Halloween falls on a Friday! I'm also driving, so hopefully that will save me some money - but I'll budget $30 anyway. ;) More posts this weekend.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Money Maus Budget

Below is my standard monthly budget. My take home pay is about $1,900 a month after taxes, health insurance and my Roth 401k contributions are taken out.

: $812.50
Utilities: $50
Internet: $16.65
Groceries: $150
Dining Out: $150
Gas: $125
Entertainment: $50
Shopping: $50
Toiletries: $20
Charity: $25
Other/Misc: $30
Savings: $200
Roth IRA: $200

Monday, October 27, 2008

Under the Weather

I was not feeling good yesterday at all. I seem to have picked up some sort of head cold/congestion. I went to bed early last night at 9pm and woke up at 6am when my alarm went off. Feeling slightly better, I had a shower and went to work - but didn't make it through the day. After 5 hours I left and went home. Thank goodness I have some sick time! Slept from 1pm-4pm, took some TheraFlu ($8.07 at the drugstore!) and now I'm feeling a bit better. Still have a stuffed-up nose.

In a short re-cap, my weekend was fun. Went out on Friday/Saturday night with the roommates, spent $31 at the bars on Saturday (purchased 2 drinks for friends), went to a work-out class on Saturday morning and spent all of Sunday being sick/doing laundry/cooking. I did spent $6.67 on a few groceries on Sunday - zucchini and ice cream. My roommate J bought a pumpkin and I gutted it and baked the seeds with some nutmeg & cinnamon, while he carved it. (Doesn't look exactly like that... but close enough, lol.)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pizza Delivery

One of my roommates (T) had his sister, brother-in-law and 7-month-old nephew stop by tonight for dinner. We decided on pizza since it would be easy and we could do delivery. Then we decided to do Round Table since they were closest in proximity.

So, we ordered 2 large specialty pizzas from Round Table and the total was...


Outrageous! For TWO large specialty pizzas?! There were no prices listed online and my roommate didn't bother to ask when he called. The pizzas were $11.00 each for a large, and then they charged us for Every. Single. Topping. (There was sausage on both and that was listed as $4.00 per pizza.) Don't you only get charged for each individual topping if you create your own pizza? Not if you order one straight off the menu?

Ridiculous. I don't even know what to say.

Oh wait... how about a $5 pizza from Little Caesars instead?!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

On Heels!

I love heels. More specifically, 3.5"+ heels, since I am very short. Here are my favorites that I currently own:

For the past few months, I had been dying to own a pair of fancy heels, ones that would be appropriate for parties, going out and perhaps the occasional date. Something other than just a pointed-toe, since I own a few of those already and they are my favorite. I finally found a pair that I wanted: BCBGirls "Famous" sandal. However, it was NOWHERE to be found in a size 5, online or at a store. Last week, when I read Well-Heeled's shoe posts, it inspired me to keep looking for them. Lo-and-behold, they were on sale at Amazon! With one left in a size 5! I immediately ordered them, spending $76.97. They arrived yesterday. What do you think? (I'm in love! They go perfect with my little black dresses. And yes, those are my feet. I am not the best photographer, though...) :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Big Day!

I officially opened my Roth IRA with Vanguard!* I did not think this would occur until at least the beginning of 2009, but I had $2,000 saved up and my parents gave me the $1,000 difference to make the minimum initial investment of $3,000. Another small step towards retirement by way of an index mutual fund! This means I have completed one of my main goals for the year.

I also purchased my 2-year membership to 24 Hour Fitness, which is scheduled to arrived on Friday. (My 7-day free trial expires on Saturday.) Total cost: $298.99. I am so excited for this and I hope the other classes I try this week are as fun as the kickboxing one I took last Sunday.

A good day in the world of personal finance for me. I am excited about my new investments: equities and my personal health/well-being. :)

*Per one of my previous posts, I did a bit more research and found out that if I invest in open-ended mutual funds and not individual securities, I am allowed to open an account at Vanguard. What a relief!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

24 Hour Fitness

I have been keeping up with my weekly work-out routine. I had written a post a few months ago on working out. The apartment we live in now is right across the street from a mall in which there is a 24 Hour Fitness. Last week, I found a fantastic deal through Costco where a 2-year membership to 24 Hour costs $289.99 (+ $9.00 s/h), which comes out to approximately $12.45 per month! (Of course, it is all paid up front. But compared to the $40/month plus $30 initiation fee that the club would charge, this is a phenomenal deal.)

Since I am more interested in exercise classes than actually using the machines at the gym, I went online and got a 7-day free pass to that 24 Hour Fitness across the street. I used my pass this morning and took a Turbo Kick Box class at 10am. It was a very intense, extremely fast but an amazing workout. The instructor was very encouraging and the class was packed. I really enjoyed it, and I plan on trying a few other classes this week to make the most of my free pass. Based on this kickboxing class alone, however, I am going to purchase the 2-year membership from Costco. I am the type of person that will definitely use it and not let it go to waste! I look forward to trying out other classes like hip hop, pilates and maybe yoga. :)

October is Halfway Done...

This weekend I spent a lot of time simply hanging out with my roommates. I caught up on some TV and watched a few new shoes online (like The Ex List) and also watched Iron Man which I liked. Did some window-shopping at the mall and found great gifts for my roommates, however, I will buy them online where I am sure they are cheaper! Here's my spending breakdown:

Friday, $5.05 - A new nail polish.
Saturday, $25.27 - I took a friend to lunch for their birthday.
Sunday, $21.21 - A few groceries.

Total: $51.53

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Extra Paycheck!

Since October is a 3-paycheck month, I just transferred my entire 2nd paycheck ($932.87) into my emergency fund!

I'll update the side-bar at the end of the month. Hooray for saving!

Friday, October 17, 2008

For My Love of Ice Cream (or, FroYo!)

I love ice cream. I always keep some ice cream in the fridge (generic mint chocolate chip - it's the best!) but sometimes, just sometimes, I get a craving for something else.

Enter an ice cream substitute: frozen yogurt! FroYo places are extremely abundant in my warm city and I've started to really enjoy them. Earlier this week, one of my roommates and his girlfriend took me to a froyo place down the road from our apartment that I had never noticed before. They told me prior to getting there that one of the flavors was pomegranate. (Which is one of my favorite fruits - and it's in season right now!)

When I got there, however, they had my other favorite fruit as a flavor choice: lychee!

My roommate was nice and bought the froyo for me on that first trip. Last night, I had a craving since the flavor was absolutely AMAZING. So, I went back and bought a large lychee froyo. It cost me $5, which was including tip. Mmm... :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day: Poverty

Today is Blog Action Day and the theme is poverty.

Being well-traveled, I have seen poverty at its worst: in South Africa, Brazil, India and Burma. It is a shock to the system when encountered in real life. To this day I want to help all the children, the men, the women and the elderly that I have seen. Especially when they look at your with their sad eyes, tug at your shirt... It makes you realize how lucky youare to have the basic, essential necessities: clean water, food and shelter. The majority of people in the world do not even have 1 or 2 of those things and it is truly and utterly depressing. An imprint has been left on my heart from my travels and encounters with poverty.

Since I cannot give my time to help those in dire need in other countries, I offer monetary support. I give a (small) monthly donation to Direct Relief International and am in the process of researching other charities which support the international causes I believe in.

Give to those in need.
Whether it is $5 or $500, a few hours or a few weeks, or even just your thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Another Survey Check

My $10 survey check from Your2Cents arrived today! I am depositing it into my Travel Fund. :)

Vacuum Cleaner

I need to buy a vacuum cleaner.

Our entire apartment (3-story townhouse) is completely carpeted and it is getting rather filthy. I've been putting off buying one since a) I do not know anything about vacuum cleaners except how to use them and b) it is a fairly expensive purchase.

My budget is $150. I would rather buy a reliable brand and get a few more years of use out of it than get a $50 one and have it break/not work after a year or two.

I am looking for something that is bag-less, works extremely well on carpet and has an attachable piece for stairs. (We have a lot of those.)

Do you have any suggestions?

Monday, October 13, 2008

We, The Savers

ING Direct is running a campaign entitled "We, The Savers."

They have a website dedicated to the campaign that lists 10 steps of financial independence. (#1, 7 and 9 mean the most to me.) I signed the declaration and earned myself a free bumper sticker that says "I SAVE" in ING Direct's traditional orange/white colors!

I think the bumper sticker is very cute and once it arrives, I will be placing it in my room to remind myself what I am trying to do: to save money and be in control of my financial life/future! :)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Good Weekend Fun

Another fun weekend! Out to the bars on Friday with my roommates, a visit from an old roommate and great friend on Saturday and some TV catch-up plus cooking on Sunday. :)

Friday at the bars, $4 (I drove, so I only purchased 1 drink.)
Saturday, $26.50 (A pretzel for $1.50 and a not-very-good-food-but-great-company dinner with my friend.)
Sunday, $40.93 (Groceries... I have a small addiction to the grocery store!)

Total: $71.43

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mileage Reimbursement

I received a mileage reimbursement from work. That $71.96 is being rounded to an even $75 and being sent to my Gift Fund, giving me a total of $250. Now it's time to start looking into Christmas gifts!

On another note... my savings rate for ING Direct dropped from 3.00% to 2.75% with the interest rate cute, and my WaMu/Chase Online Savings rate dropped from 4.00% to 3.00%. Makes me want to move all my savings into my WaMu account, but I do love my ING sub-accounts!

Weathering the Storm

In discussion of today's market events with my roommates, one of them stated that he moved all of his 401(k) from stocks into a money-market fund. I understand moving some money, but ALL? Especially when you are in your early 20s and have many years to reap the benefits back, and then some? (To be honest, I thought my very intelligent roommate had more sense than that.)

Like so many people, my roommate is an emotional investor. However, when you have time on your side, you should try as hard as possible to NOT let your emotions lead you. To the best of your ability.

As this article from the NYTimes so aptly states, it is not a good idea to try to be a market timer. Which is exactly what my 24-year-old roommate is trying to do. He said he would just switch his money back into stocks when they start to go up again - but, it is very difficult to realized when that will be. If he could accurately do that, he would have moved his money a year ago. What if stocks post huge gains tomorrow?

I am just starting to invest. I realize that, yes, I will lose value initially. The markets do not go up forever, they do tumble, and sometimes by a lot. However, they also post amazing gains and, in the long-run, have always provided wonderful returns.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Vanguard On Hold

I work for a private investment firm/money manager. I knew I most likely would not be able to have a personal trading account, so today I contacted our compliance department to see what my options are. (I would like to open a Roth IRA, and had planned to do so at Vanguard.)

I received a response stating that, as an employee, I can only open an account at one of the following designated brokerage firms:

TD Ameritrade
Charles Schwab
Merrill Lynch
Morgan Stanley

I tried to do some research on the sites, however there seems to be WAY more information than I want/need. I looked specifically for no-load, low-cost index funds and Charles Schwab seems to have a few (SchwabFunds) that hover around the 0.50% expense ratio. I might be able to get some sort of "special" or "discount" by stating that I am an employee of my specific firm, but I am not certain of that. I am disappointed that my no-load, low-cost Roth IRA with Vanguard has been tossed out the window while I work at my current company. I am a huge fan of Vanguard/Fidelity and heard their praises sung all during college, as well as in the pf blogosphere! My current income is low and as such, I am looking for very low costs for investing. (My 401k is through my firm and all fees are waived.)

**Update: I am going to inquire if I can specifically invest in Vanguard mutual funds, as they are 3rd-party mutual fund accounts. I am also going to see if I can allot a voluntary contribution to my 401(k) plan if I really cannot open an account with Vanguard.

What would you do in my situation? Do any of you have accounts (specifically, Roth IRAs) with the above firms, and would you recommend them?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Stock Market

The markets tumbled again today. We are living in tumultuous times. Everything seems to be having an effect on everything else.

When I got home, I logged in to my 401(k) provider's website and was happy to see that my first (Roth) contribution of $76.18 is now officially in the stock market!

This is the start of my long investing relationship with the markets. I am getting in at a very low point. Let's see what happens.

There's a lot more to come. I look forward to the near future as I continue to contribute to my 401(k) and when I open my Roth IRA.

New Hobby

Slowly I have been spending more and more time cooking. I have an obsession with food - mostly with eating it, and now I am attempting to cook it. (My love of food was increased to incredible heights during the summer of 2007 when I lived in NYC. I basically ate my way through the city - from hot dogs to pizza to dessert, but almost always mostly ethnic foods. Every single type of cuisine you could imagine, and even some you might have never even heard of!)

Cooking is extremely fun, rewarding and frustrating all in one. This weekend I made two soups (paired perfectly with some naan) and a very time-consuming (but hearty and filling) shepherd's pie. Now I have lots of leftovers for the rest of the week!

I have a few other recipes planned for later this week/weekend, once I am out of leftovers. In case you are curious, I use and Cheap Healthy Good (Kris - you're awesome!) as my main sources of inspiration. Recently, I stumbled upon a BBC show entitled "Chinese Food Made Easy" and have tried one of the recipes from the website - and it is an absolute winner!

My male roommates approved of all the food, too, which makes me extremely ecstatic because this is my new hobby. :)

Do you have any recipes that you like to make?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Homecoming Weekend

This weekend was Homecoming at my alma mater. I went to a yummy (free!) breakfast with some old friends and had a good time. I also went out to the bars with my roommates on Friday night and then I spent all of Sunday cooking! Overall a both fun and relaxing weekend.

Friday night at the bars, $21 (This is why I don't go out very often! It can add up... and I know I got away cheap.)
Groceries, $52.50 (I think I bought all the produce in the store, lol.)

Total: $73.50

Friday, October 3, 2008


I just reconciled my final numbers from September and I had $100 leftover from my budget!

Instead of putting it towards my E-fund (which already got an extra $200 boost this month), it will be going into my Gift Fund. The Christmas season is only a few months away and I have not purchased a single gift yet for family or friends! With this $100 addition, I have $175 so far to spend on gifts. Now I need to figure out what to buy!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Too Hot!

Not only did the air conditioning fail at work for the first half of the day this morning, but it is currently 91 degrees... in October?!

I do live in a Southern California city known for its sunshine - but this is nuts! I was all ready to work out when I got home this afternoon, but I've decided to finish reading one of my library books and eat some ice cream instead.

I still have tomorrow and Friday to get in another workout. :)

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