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Archive for February, 2016

Getting Ready for our Trip

February 17th, 2016 at 05:02 pm

So we finally booked our flights to NYC, which were necessary to get us to Peru (our Groupon deal flew out of NY). And we booked our hotel room for the additional 3 nights we'll be staying in the city at the tail end of our trip.

Our honeymoon is going to be quite amazing, but we're definitely racking it up. So far:

$3,998 - Groupon Deal to Peru (including flights + hotel)
$280 - Optional Tours that we added
$528 - Our flights to NYC
$746 - Hotel stay for 3 nights in NYC
$216 - Hiking shoes for both of us, daypack, mosquito repellant, rain jacket (used $125 Amazon GC for part of this)

Total: $5,768

That's for two people, 11 nights, international and domestic flights, and an amazing experience. All things considered, I think we did pretty well - and our honeymoon donations (wedding gifts) cover above and beyond that. Also, we're getting quite a bit of swagbucks out of it - the $125 in GCs I mentioned happened because we went through Swagbucks to purchase the Groupon deal. When DH and I went to Micronesia back in 2010 to visit his sister, we spent about $4k in flight tickets alone.

We will obviously do a bit more spending once we're on the trip. Thankfully, it seems all transportation has been arranged to/from the airport and any tours included in our itinerary. Breakfast is provided the whole time we're in Peru, as well as a few other meals. We'll want to pick up some souvenirs.

In NYC we'll obviously be on our own. We have a handful of tourist stops we want to make - though several of them will be free: Statue of Liberty (just see it, not go up in it), the Highline, Times Square, etc. I've already done the Empire State Building, so we're opting out of that. I'm sure we'll do one nice dinner while we're there, and we also want to catch the NY Red Bulls match going on that weekend (DH is crazy about soccer, and we've tried to attend a match almost every trip we've taken. haha).

I think we've purchased most everything we want/need for the trip. We may both grab one other outfit for hiking, but we'll see. I'm just making sure everything we're purchasing can/will actually be used after the trip. I also need to get a feel for how NYC's weather is going to be at the time. It's hard to tell right now.

All I know is that I'm absolutely pumped for it to be here!! We drug our feet quite a bit planning the honeymoon, but now that everything is booked it's not so stressful... just something really exciting to look forward to!

***

In other news, because we just dropped so much money, we're definitely looking to spend a bit less. I'm heading to Aldi today to do a bit of grocery shopping - made my stop at Target last night to get a few other things they don't offer. A friend wanted to go out to dinner tonight, but I convinced her to come over for dinner instead, so that was a good financial choice.

Spent some time in Quickbooks today documenting payments and depositing checks. Had a shoot last night that went really well, so that was great. I've also been doing a lot of soul searching these past few weeks re: my business, and I'm starting to feel really good about turning it around, rather than giving up on it (which was where it was headed not too long ago). It's just not been terribly fulfilling for me lately. A really heavy wedding season burnt me out entirely, and to be honest... I don't love shooting them to begin with. There's a reason we charge the big bucks for them. Weddings are an exhausting line of work, and it's not for everyone. I think I'm one of those people. I can do it well, but it pretty much sucks the life out of me. So if I have to get a part time job to boost my income while I focus my business on portraiture and actually be happy with it, that's something I'm more than happy to do. Then, maybe, I'll get to a point where I CAN support the family on my photography. Who knows.

So that's that. All of my updates, for the most part. I hope you all are having a great week!

Feb 12

February 12th, 2016 at 04:12 pm

So I finally went and did my shopping yesterday. I was able to return my stuff to AE, and they put the total value of the reimbursement on my card, which was nice - given that I had paid for $50 in gift cards. Still waiting for that to hit the account. They had very little in swim in the store, so I ended up going to Victoria's Secret and found a suit I loved. A bit more expensive, but it'll last for a few years. So that saga is over.

Also did a little shopping for warm weather wear. I found two tops at a good price. I don't usually shop at Banana Republic because it's so expensive, but I got a skirt and a top for under $30. Great date night or work outfit, and now I finally own a skirt. That's been on my radar for some time now. The other top is a comfy solid black shirt that can be dressed up or down. Everything followed my palette, and I'll be getting rid of another top that I never wear, so I'm keeping things pared down.

Looked at the budget and I'm still going to be under once that reimbursement hits - so we're doing alright. One of my Amazon gift cards from Swagbucks hit, waiting for the bigger one so I can snag my hiking shoes for vacation.

Today I need to get in touch with our travel agent to get flight details for Peru. We need to book our flights to and from NYC still, and decide if we want to do 1 or 2 nights in the city on our way back. As well as where we want to stay. Neither of us have really spent any time in NYC, so it's fun that we get to add that on to the end of the honeymoon - it'll be quite the contrast coming from Cusco!

Ended up going out with a friend last night. Spent $20 between the cover and drinks, but it was a hilarious comedy show and a really good time. Money well spent, I'd say.

DH also worked from home yesterday, so we hit the Indian lunch buffet (delicious). Had leftovers for dinner. Tonight I'll be making the poached eggs with asparagus and toast, which means I'm baking bread today as well. Don't have any plans for tonight, which hopefully means we'll be staying in - I've went out the last two nights, and I'm craving some quiet time in. I'm sure my budget will appreciate that as well!

Hope you all enjoy your Friday and have a fantastic weekend!

Feb 10

February 10th, 2016 at 01:34 pm

It's been 5 days since my last update. Whew! Thankfully, my absence was not accompanied by a ridiculous spending binge (5 days may not seem like a lot, but you would be surprised at how much I gain from this platform in accountability!).

Not sure I have much exciting news to report. Replaced my elliptical for $82 - it arrived yesterday, and I'm thoroughly looking forward to breaking it in today Smile Since my Dietbets ended, I've slipped up on my workouts/eating well. I'm telling you, with me it's all about accountability. ha.

Still waiting for my Swagbucks giftcards to hit so I can make my purchases for the trip. Today I'll be heading out to return the swimsuit I bought (and hopefully find a replacement), as well as taking a look at a couple of stores to find a couple of warm weather articles.

Also hitting Trader Joe's and Aldi for a few items. The last couple of days we've been working through leftovers from our superbowl get together, and had dinner at a friend's last night.

We did get some groceries Sunday in preparation for said party, and made a trip to Walgreens for a couple of things DH needed. I armed myself with a couple coupons - I had been meaning to stop there to pick up a few things as well. DH was impressed with my couponing. Saved an additional $7 on items that were already on sale. And I stocked up on a few of my essentials: Dove soap, our St. Ives face wash (that DH loves an insists on), as well as dry shampoo for me.

I kept our meals light this week, so I only had to purchase a few items at the store:

- BBQ Chicken w/ mac & cheese (chicken I bought last week and the mac is leftover from Sunday)
- Hot Dogs (also leftover)
- Thai Chicken Soup
- Poached Eggs w/ asparagus, toast & bacon
- Meatloaf w/ mashed sweet potatoes

Only need some veggies for the soup, and the meatloaf will be our "fancy" dinner for V-day. Can't say it's really that fancy... but nothing says romance like loaves of meat. haha. We wont be exchanging gifts. I'll prob make him a silly card like I always do, but beyond that we'll just spend some quality time, probably watching movies or something.

I'm going to bake bread, probably tomorrow or Friday - for the toast. DH was insistent on bacon this week. I've been trying not to buy it because it's expensive and not good for us (albeit delicious). But he'll probably make breakfast this weekend, and it's a holiday. Guess bacon says romance, too...

Tonight I'm meeting another member of my BNI group for happy hour. Drinks are $3, so I'm not expecting to spend more than $8 all together, with tip. So definitely not a no-spend day, but all planned spending.

In terms of goals, I'm not doing terribly great. My writing challenge has been kept up with, but I still need to get on updating my quickbooks so I can get all that info to my accountant and get our taxes in order. And then open and close all the accounts I need to have everything in order. Talking to my friend at Huntington about opening a business savings - that way I can transfer a percentage for taxes and not end up like I am now, scrambling to save up for them. Still need to close my old checking and savings accounts and deposit that money in my business account for that tax payment.

And, of course, I need to get back on track with my weight loss goal. Or at least just back on track with my workouts.

So that's that. I hope you are all having a lovely week!

Feb 5

February 5th, 2016 at 01:24 pm

It's been a relatively low-spend week, though I feel like that is going to change soon :/

I'm at about $90 of my grocery budget. I'll need to reign that in, but we did a good amount of cooking this week. We did go out to dinner last night, and we'll likely eat leftovers tonight. Tomorrow is my mom's birthday party, so dinner will be taken care of, I believe (or at least some food will be there). We've got one meal left to cook. I'll probably go to the store on Sunday. Still trying to keep my grocery budget under $200.

In terms of upcoming spending...

My little elliptical machine broke Frown Had my engineer friend over the other day and we busted it open to try and fix it. It's a lost cause, unfortunately. It'll be about $80 to replace it. Which isn't terrible, all things considered (less than a gym membership for a year for sure), but it's annoying. I am, however, looking forward to having it back. My workouts have been suffering a bit.

We leave for Peru in about a month, and we're starting to look at what we will want/need to bring. I think we're both going to buy a pair of good hiking shoes. March is the tail end of rainy season there, and we're going to be doing a lot of hiking. Waterproof and sturdy is going to be key. Also, getting the hardcore mosquito repellent will be a necessity with all that Zika virus hullabaloo going on. We're not planning to get pregnant for a few years, and at this point it looks like Peru isn't seeing too much of the virus, thankfully - but my mother in law is freaking out a bit, and I'd of course rather be safe than sorry. Also might snag a lightweight hiking daypack with a waterproof cover. I'll have my camera with me, and I don't want it getting damaged. Lastly, I may pick up some odds and ends in the way of clothes. May want one more pair of good workout leggings for the trip, and maybe a lightweight long-sleeved shirt. Again, thinking of the mosquitoes. As far as "Nice" clothes go, I think I'm covered. I just want to make sure I'm comfortable and safe while we're out and about. Also, we're planning to do a lot of hiking once we move down south - so we'll get a lot of use out of anything we purchase. I may redeem some of my Swagbucks for giftcards to cover those purchases.

In savings:

Mom's birthday party is, as I mentioned, this weekend. We're going to regift a restaurant gift card we got at the wedding. We don't spend much time at Darden restaurants, but she loves Olive Garden. I'll write a nice card, and that will be that.

We don't do anything for Valentine's Day, thank goodness. Might make a nice dinner, but no gifts. No restaurants.

***

I can't believe how soon we'll be moving - and we're starting to think about how we're going to arrange all of it. We need to schedule a weekend to go down to Nashville and see apartments (and hopefully that weekend put in applications), as well as figure the logistics. DH wants to price movers, but in the end I think it's going to be MUCH cheaper if we just rent a U-HAUL and do it ourselves, probably even if we have a friend drive down with us and then fly them back... but we'll see.

Admittedly, I'm starting to get *really* antsy for moving time to be here. Makes me feel a bit guilty, because we should be focused on enjoying our time with our friends here - and we are, for sure. But I think I'm ready for a change. Big time.

I think that's it for me today! I hope you are all having a great week! Enjoy your weekend! a

Results of my Coffee Experiment

February 2nd, 2016 at 01:06 pm

February already?! Sheesh...

Things are going relatively well this week - I had a shoot rescheduled from yesterday, which was perfect. Because I was going to have to miss half of my acting class that started last night, but the client was unable to do it. So I got to go to the whole thing! And it went really well Smile

Yesterday was a no spend day. I'm on day 3 of my writing challenge, and it's going fantastically.

Added my debt to my mint account this morning - so far I had only linked our joint account and set up our budgets. But now there's a bit more of an accurate assessment of things. Just need to get DH to link his CC and investment accounts so we can get a crystal clear picture. And close my PNC account.

***

I finished out the coffee I had bought from Trader Joe's, so I have an accurate understanding of the cost savings. I went through and made a little spreadsheet to make some comparisons.


So the Aldi K-cups are what we've been using since we replaced our Keurig machine. This experiment was originally intended to see if I made any cost savings by getting the reusable cup and filling it with the delicious Trader Joe's coffee that I grind in the store. So all of the cost savings comparisons are to the Aldi K-cups (in the first column). Ct for the ground coffee is based on the volume I used over the course of the experiment. Savings per year is per cup x 365 days. Per month divides that by 12. At 2 cups a day doubles those figures, and would be what we would save if DH and I both made the change.



Some observations:

- I don't save *much* by going with the Trader Joe's coffee, but it is about $0.11 a cup better, so that's something. Not bad for the coffee being much more delicious and using the reusable cup is better for the environment.
- We would save considerably more by switching to the preground Dunkin Donuts coffee (DH's fave) or Folgers (which wouldn't be my first choice, but it's good to see a comparison). Both would be purchased in larger bags online.
- I included the DD K-cups and the Keurig Brand Donut K-cups to basically see how much I'm saving by getting them at Aldi. It's amazing to see how much more expensive it is - even making the coffee at home!
- The Vue cup comparison shows how much we're saving now that we switched from the Vue machine (which was purchased for us as a gift) to the newer model that takes regular sized k-cups. That $300 we save over a year more than pays for the new machine!

So basically, I'm not saving thousands by any means, but when every little bit helps, it's interesting to see. I think I am going to buy that big bag of Dunkin coffee - because DH might actually take the effort to use it. I may also keep drinking my Ethiopian coffee as well, at least keep it around for the days I want to have something a little more special.

I'm also going to add $4.62 to my savings/snowflakes to reflect the $0.11 per cup I saved by making the switch this time Smile

Hope you guys found my nerdy exercise to be as interesting as I did! haha.