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Screenplay Reading and Gearing up for the Weekend

November 22nd, 2017 at 12:17 pm

My screenplay reading last weekend went great, despite some nasty weather that I'm sure kept some people home. It's always such a gift to hear my work brought to life, and my actors were fantastic. I'm very lucky. I got so many positive comments from attendees. Many asked what the next steps were, if there are any plans to put it into development because they'd actually like to see it as a movie. That's what we're aiming for, so it's good to hear the story is resonating with people. It bodes well Smile

My producer thinks the script has about one or two more passes before sending it on to the distributor. Once we do that we're hoping for some buy-in and leverage to gain funding (this distributor works with big name studios as well as indie companies). He's the money guy. I've got not connections in the biz. But he seems confident this could actually happen. I'm trying to not let my imagination run away with itself.

Submitted the script to two film festivals. I'll hear back in February and March on both of those. The first draft went to the semifinal round in a screenplay contest earlier this year, so I'm hopeful that they will be accepted in its current (better) state now. Acceptance or a win would be great leverage for pitching the movie as well, so crossing my fingers!

---

This week has just been flying by! It's exciting to have tomorrow and Friday off work, but I always feel the push to get completely caught up before a long weekend like this. Luckily, I've been fairly productive.

As far as spending goes, only spent about $33 at the grocery store over the weekend. We had dinners left over from last week, and we'll be out of town for the holiday - so it was mostly breakfast food, lunch fare, etc. Though I did pick up a pack of country style pork ribs for a little over $3 and cooked them in the crock pot with a bunch of leftover veggies and cream of celery soup. Yum. Will be adding that one to the rotation.

Got an oil change last night. Used a $10 coupon from the mail. It was still expensive, but we have a 5-hour drive back home coming up and it's been a little overdue.

It's going to be really nice to get to spend time with everyone. I'm glad we're not doing all 3 cities in one day like we typically do. Instead, we're doing a day per city. I'm hoping that will make it far less exhausting and allow us to really enjoy our time with each family/group. We'll be with family tomorrow and Friday, so I'm hoping it wont be a super expensive trip. Really, it should just be lunch a couple of times and of course extra gas.

Not doing any Black Friday shopping. I don't do crowds. I may hop online to see if there's anything worthwhile to grab. I'm still not sure what the story is with DH's family or whether we're doing gifts this year, so I've been holding off on planning for the moment. I'm sure we'll figure it out when we see them tomorrow, though.

Today will be finishing up work (and possibly staying late at work, depending on how productive I am), working out after, and getting ready for the journey. I hope you all have such a lovely Thanksgiving!

DH was Accepted :)

December 7th, 2016 at 02:21 pm

We found out yesterday that DH was accepted to the PhD program he applied to! It was his first choice, and we're incredibly excited. It means a lot of changes ahead, but mostly it means that he gets to dive into something he's truly passionate about, and leave the job that has been eating away at his soul for a couple of years now.

Also, it means that we can stop speaking in hypotheticals and start planning in earnest, which is an absolute relief.

That planning will involve me starting the process of finding a job, researching our new city (2 hours away) and planning our move that will happen in June when our lease ends, and trying to wrangle our financial future once that happens. He'll have an assistantship with the university, which means a stipend income of about $20k per year, but there are a lot of question marks where my job is concerned.

It's cause for a bit of anxiety, but I'm trying to focus on the positives.

In just a couple of hours I have a meeting with the financial planner from my networking group to go over my student loans and see if there are any options out there for reworking the situation to make it better. I'm paying over $500/month and not making much headway because my interest rates are through the roof. The loans originated back when I was an undergrad, with little to no credit, no cosigner, and before I was married. So I feel like things can only improve. I'm hoping, anyway.

Let's hope this meeting will yield more good news!

Hope you all have a great day!

CCs Paid Off!

April 26th, 2016 at 01:35 pm

It feels good to have no CC debt anymore! Just made the payments. I've got to say that dropping $4,263 on anything that isn't a vacation is a bit rough... but it's certainly freeing.

In total, I was able to contribute $6,172 from my tax savings to our personal funds, so there was even an excess of $2k after paying the cards off. And now things are back to square one. I think that's the best part. I'm saving about $40/month in interest payments, and I generally was paying $200/month in payments. That's money that we can either put toward our savings goals or to pay extra on my student loans. And my credit score will definitely see a nice uptick.

***

Finally went and closed my PNC accounts the other day, so now I'm just operating out of our joint account. I want to go in with DH and open a savings account soon, and he said he's fine with that idea. We may as well be earning a bit of interest on our savings. We'll get one of the higher-tier accounts with US Bank because I'm a prior service member (a fun perk that I wasn't aware of until we opened our account).

The only other account that I need to close is that stupid Toyota credit card that I never actually signed up for years ago. I've had it around for emergencies, but it seems silly to have 4. I'd like to close the PNC CC as well, and still might, but it's my longest standing line of credit... so I'm a bit hesitant. But at this point, again, we're not really looking to get loans any time soon. So it's probably not that big of a deal. For the sake of simplicity, I think I'd rather just have my 2 Chase cards.

***

Yesterday had a field day with my nightmare client, but by the end of it she was singing my praises and her invoice has been sent. Needless to say, I will not be working with her again. Headache.

Decided to jump on Freelancer.com and bid on a couple of projects. I got one, and so I've got a nice little design project to do and a couple hundred more coming in. It's going to be a busy week. I'm also doing some pro bono work for the local chapter of a national nonprofit that I really support. They'll be giving me some advertising exposure in kind, but I'm just excited to be doing something for a cause I'm passionate about.

***

Dietbet is going really well. I'm now at 158.8, and just a few pounds away from my (actual) goal weight! We did break down and get takeout from a lebanese place nearby last night - a friend came over and we didn't really have enough for everyone if I cooked. I was also exhausted after our workout. So womp womp. I only got some chicken lentil soup, though - so at least it was good for my diet.

***

That's it for now. I hope you are all having a lovely week!

April 22

April 22nd, 2016 at 03:57 pm

Got my invoice from the accountant - $650. That's $300 for filing our taxes, $100 for paying sales tax for my business throughout the year, and another $250 for my Quickbooks and consultations throughout the year (I met with them 3 times). All in all, I would say it was money well-spent. Not the cheapest, I'm sure - but at least it's also an expense I can write off. And I know it's getting done right.

Now that all that is done and the checks are all written, I have an accurate view of what's going on. Today I'll be going to the bank to close my personal checking account (moving the last little bit of money to our joint account). Then going to the other bank to deposit that money + some cash that I've been meaning to put in... namely, xmas $ (it's just been sitting in a drawer) and the $ I collected from friends to put towards DH's bday party, a total $423 deposit.

Also slipping the check in the mail for my accountant and making our local tax payment. We have returns coming to the tune of $609 total.

Deposited a couple of payments from clients today and moved 35% of each amount to the savings account where I hold tax payments for 2016.

***

Now that I have an accurate view of where we are at, it's time to have that conversation with DH about our goals. When we first sat down to take a look at the budget, we made some rough savings goals: vacation, kids, kids education, emergency fund, retirement, house. We even put general numbers to them, but I'd like to be a little more organized and intentional about actually doing that. I'd like to open a joint savings account so we can see the progress there rather than just having a number raising in the checking (which is how DH tends to do things, but doesn't really work for me).

Lately, money has been a rough subject to talk about, so I want to explore some different ways to approach the discussion. I've got some ideas up my sleeve, and I'm excited to give them a go.

***

Scheduled a shoot for the weekend, which was unexpected but nice. Have a couple of sessions to finish editing and wrap up. Still job hunting, and am starting to get really excited about the possibilities Smile

***

Dietbet is going well - did great with my eating yesterday, though I was way hungrier than usual. Went on a 3.5 mile run Wednesday night and that drained me. Didn't workout yesterday as a result. We were both pretty exhausted. Today will definitely be working out, and so far my eating has been great.

Breakfast: Oatmeal with flax, berries, and peanut butter
Lunch: Veggie burger with leftover ratatouille, avocado
Dinner: Roasted Carrot Salad
Snacks: (none yet! that oatmeal was filling) Almonds, string cheese

No plans tonight other than working out. Think DH wants to do some Kenpo after work. We'll see after that! Tomorrow I have a double feature movie date with my SIL. We'll also be grabbing dinner while we're out, but I'm going to do my best to keep it inexpensive and healthy. No movie popcorn Frown

Sunday I've got that shoot at noon and an empty slate otherwise. Weather should be nice, so I'm hoping to get outside!

Hope you all enjoy your weekend!

April 19

April 19th, 2016 at 06:55 pm

Alrighty, taxes are filed and things are back to normal! Woo! We got sizeable return from state (about $700), owe about $200 to city, and will be getting a small $200 refund from the fed. All in all, a completely successful tax season! Particularly considering that I thought I was going to be $8k out of pocket... sheesh! Now I just need the invoice from my accountant to know exactly how things pan out, and I'll start to use those funds I've been saving (about $6k right now).

I think I want to pay off at least one of my CCs with the funds, the one that isn't 0% interest for the next 10 months. Then we'll save an additional $37 every month on top of that. Things are looking good! After that, only one more to pay off and I can start laser focusing on my student loans. Hooray!

So looking at my long-term goals, I no longer need to save for taxes (I'm already setting aside a percentage of income in a savings account for 2016). We have far more than $1k in the bank that we could use for an emergency, though I'd like to start talking with DH about setting specific savings goals...

And now that we have a few months' worth of financial data in our mint account, we can look more closely at what we'd like to change in terms of our spending and saving. It's a great place to be!

***

In other financial news, DH and I both signed up for Dietbets - he did 2 games, and I'm signed up for 3. So we're $150 in. I think we'll both have little problem making our goal weights, so hopefully that will yield a nice gain. And we'll both be a bit closer to where we should be on the scale! Win-win.

***

The budget right now is looking okay... We're past the halfway point in the month, and definitely coming close to maxing out most of what we've allotted. We were about $40 under on our heating bill, so we'll adjust for next month. Our discretionary spending is close to maxed, but I'm confident that we can pull through. Groceries might be problematic now that we're trying to eat healthy... but I'm going to try and be smart about it and get a little creative so I don't go over. We're doing a lot of cooking this week.

At any rate, that's where things stand now! Hope you are all having a lovely week!

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.

Progress + Groceries

January 28th, 2016 at 08:52 pm

Went through and switched all of my autopay bills to the joint account, and paid off the last $200 of my PNC credit card. So now all I have to do is withdraw all of the money from my checking and savings accounts and put them in my business account for taxes. Then I can close those. Still haven't decided if I'm going to close my PNC CC or just put it in a box and keep it just in case of emergencies. It's my longest standing CC to date, and it'll keep my credit score a bit higher theoretically just having a higher credit allowance overall. For now, it goes in the box. But I do still need to call and close that silly Toyota credit card that I never wanted in the first place.

I'll be saving approx. $40/month now that I've switched over to a 0% interest rate, and I added 11 months worth of savings to my spreadsheet where I'm keeping track of these things.

***

Also went grocery shopping today - and sad to report that it put me over my $200 limit. I could have waited until Monday to buy a lot of the items I got, but rather than making two trips, I figured it made more sense to just buy everything for next week this week. So honestly, I think I'm just going to start this trip for February's budget and just not going again until the week after (which is entirely do-able). So I retract my previous statement. I did make it under $200 for January Wink

Spent $34.78 at Aldi - and stuck to my grocery list. My second stop was at Target, where I spent $40.76. But that included some considerable savings. We weren't really in need of cat food or litter yet, but they were having a great deal on our brands, which included sales prices, a $5 gift card for purchasing, two coupons I printed, Cartwheel coupons, and my 5% off for using my Target RED Debit Card. So I essentially spent $17.67 on a huge bag of food and a 35lb. container of cat litter. We'll be stocked for a long while, and in total it was way cheaper than I had priced it via Prime Pantry. So I count it a win! Everything else I purchased was on my list and I had coupons for as well. We shouldn't have to buy personal care products for quite some time either.

On the menu for this weekend/next week:

- Thai Chicken Stir-fry
- Pork Chops w/ Roasted Carrots and Cabbage
- Mexican Pizza
- Baked Chicken Drumsticks w/ Sweet Potato Gnocchi
- BBQ Chicken w/ Cheddar Pancakes

Getting There

January 20th, 2016 at 01:37 pm

Spent some time yesterday actually charting out the budgets on the new (joint) Mint account. My plan is to be paying everything out of it by next month. DH and I had sat down a few months ago to talk over expenses and what we estimate we spend. He doesn't do any sort of budgeting, so it's going to be a learning experience finding out how much we actually spend between us.

I got a little more granular than I did with my own categories - mostly because I think it'll be useful at the end of the year to see where we're spending, and where we can cut down. My husband is a numbers guy. So even though I'm sure he wont be checking in on the account much, it'll be better for me to illustrate things later on. Not that I want to preemptively win arguments, but I really don't think he knows just how much he spends, and when we have to cut back drastically (for instance, if/when he goes back to school), it'll be easier to find where we can reduce.

***

Got a couple of checks in the mail that have been long overdue. So that's nice. Pretty much all of that income will be put toward tax savings. I also need to calculate out my income for the second half of 2015 so I can send it to my accountant and get my sales tax paid. That will be a project for today.

***

Today I'll probably swing by a mailbox and drop my Q4 local tax payment in the mail. Hooray for taxes... :/

***

Yesterday was a no-spend day. Not a very productive one, but I didn't leave the house until the evening - to go to a friend's for dinner. So free dinner as well. Tonight we'll cook. Thinking I'll make my Italian chicken again. DH really enjoyed that, and I'm making zoodles to go with it (zuchinni noodles) to make it a bit healthier. I need something a bit lighter after the *delicious* meal of enchiladas and black bean soup I had last night.

Speaking of healthy, as of yesterday I hit my goal weight for my Dietbet! Now all I have to do is maintain or lose more for the rest of the month and I'll for sure get my money back (and then some)! Feels really great Big Grin

***

That's it for me! I hope you all have a lovely day!

Spendy Weekend

January 18th, 2016 at 03:49 pm

Well, relatively spendy, anyway. We were out and about quite a bit. Dinner out Friday night (DH paid), Saturday we hit the store and bought snacks on our way out of town (DH paid again), then had dinner out that night as well (again, DH paid).

So yesterday when we got breakfast out, I footed the bill. About $20. Needless to say, I'm happy that we'll be eating at home the rest of the week. My stomach will be grateful. And even though DH paid, I'd like to be spending less together as well.

He's going to be switching his direct deposit over to the joint account today, so that will be good. I'm still waiting for the balance transfer to go through on my CC. It was supposed to hit today, but with the bank holiday I'm assuming it will be tomorrow? Hoping, anyway. Then my savings will be transferred to my Ally account for tax savings.

My non-essential spending didn't work out so well this week. I've been using swagbucks and ebates a lot lately, and I see deals and think it makes sense to take advantage of them. Nothing too crazy - but I purchased a $25 Sephora gift card to get the extra points. I'm going to have to buy new mascara here soon, and that's where I get it. Specific kind, the kind I like and feel good splurging on. Then in order to get my $10 Target gift card and the 4% cash back at Ebates, I spent $27 on a pair of leggings on sale at Athleta (the heavier performance ones for working out). The ones I wear the most are starting to rip at the crotch. lol. I reeeeally like the ones I picked out, and I generally buy them at around the same pricepoint at Marshall's or TJMaxx.

So that goal is a bust, but at least I'm taking the time to think through my purchases and not impulse shopping. Both of those would have been purchases I would make this year. And I'm still under budget for the month in all categories. Baby steps, I suppose.

***

Speaking of work out wear, I'm on schedule to win both of my Dietbet games next week - only a half a pound to go! That means I'm down 6.2 pounds now and I'll be getting back my $45 + winnings, if I make that goal. It feels really great Smile

It's going to be a busy week, so I should get back to work. Hope you all enjoyed your weekends, and those of you who have the day off, enjoy that as well Big Grin

Jan 6

January 6th, 2016 at 01:40 pm

Nothing of note to report - believe I'll be opening the Chase Slate CC and transferring my balance, but that's old news. I just went over it with DH yesterday to get his feedback, and now it's a go.

Yesterday went to the grocery store for a handful of things (toilet paper, tissues, feminine stuff, olive oil, garlic, chicken). Only got a few things beyond my list - these delicious (and very healthy!) lentil chips from Aldi, a jar of marinara (I meant to put this on the list and forgot), and a tub of cottage cheese for breakfast this coming week. I struggle with what to eat for breakfast when I'm trying to lose weight. And I'm attempting to limit my carbs, so oatmeal is out. This seemed like a good way to go.

All together, I spent $26.

Made fajitas last night. Turned out pretty fantastic. Have enough leftovers for at least one meal. Tonight I'm heading to a friend's to make dinner with him. He decided to try that Blue Apron service. I personally think it's too expensive - if I'm spending $10/portion, someone else is making my food! But I'm still happy to come over and see what the fuss is all about Smile

As for goal updates:

- Still doing good on the non-essential spending
- I thought $26 was a good grocery run. My have to stop back again later this week, but maybe not, even. We have a lot of stuff to make.
- I'm down 2 lbs. from my original starting Dietbet weight! Woo!
- Watched a Sue Bryce video yesterday - one day closer to 28!

Today will be a heavy editing day. And a light(er) work out day. My legs were so sore this morning that I'm pretty sure they were the ones that woke me up. haha. Going to focus on stretching and maybe do some arms.

Hope you all have a lovely day!

Happy New Year!

January 2nd, 2016 at 05:35 pm

Our NYE party was a hit - only about 10 people all together, but I still made a nice spread: hot sandwich roll, honey glazed smokies, and caprese skewers. As well as some hummus, salsa, chips, etc. DH handled the bartending for the night. We had made up homemade sour mix the day before and if how I felt yesterday was any indication of how much I enjoyed them, well...

Thankfully, we do have quite a bit of food left. A lot of lunchmeat and some ciabatta rolls, so we'll do sandwiches a couple of times this week. Tons of leftover drink fixins as well, but I think I'm going to take a break there. haha. I've been sick for the last week or so. Drinking as much as I did NYE was probably a mistake, but it's a holiday... Now I'm focused on getting better ASAP. It's starting to get rather miserable.

I don't have much to report on the financial front. Yesterday was a NSD. Today will be much of the same. I do need to go through and pay bills, but I decided that January will be a no-spend month. At least outside of the essentials. So far so good! Yesterday DH and I literally laid around all day, hungover. We watched a couple movies - Interstellar and the Lego Movie. Both were incredibly good. Then the rest of the day I finished the book I was working on, "The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck. Another good find. Not terribly exciting in the plot department, but a nice calming read that speaks to how peoples' attitudes change as they encounter abundance. Interesting stuff.

After finishing, I made myself some tea and started another in bed. Decided to tackle "Walden." It's one I've never read, but you hear a lot about. And I think it's perfectly tied into my theme of Making Space. I opted out of sitting on social media for hours this morning and got a good chunk of pages this morning read as well Smile

***

I sat down and thought through some of my goals for the year, and usually I write out a list of 10-20 things I want to accomplish. And usually they sit in that list all year without much accomplishment. I decided to do things differently this time around. I'm going to set basic monthly goals, but other than that I'll just stick to making good daily decisions (a la "Making Space") and record my accomplishments as I meet them. I'd rather celebrate the things I'm proud of than be perpetually reminded of the things that have no longer become priorities.

Not to say that I don't still have goals Smile It's just hard to tell at the beginning of the year if something like NaNoWriMo will still be a priority in November. Things change, and I like to stay flexible. So instead, I'll tuck things like that away in my mind, and re-evaluate when the time comes.

For January, my goals are:

- No spend month, outside of essentials (no clothes, home items, beauty products, entertainment, etc)
- Cut grocery budget to under $200
- Win Dietbets (lose 6.7 lbs by Jan 25)
- Finish 28 Days with Sue Bryce Program (I purchased this last year and never went through it)
- Go through pricing course with photog friend

As for overarching financial/budget goals with DH, I've decided to not even have that conversation. haha. We went over our basic goals when we had the original (stressful) conversation, so until we really know what this is going to look like, I'm holding off. Instead, my goals will be to get things actually set up! In January, I would like to:

- Set up Mint for Joint Account
- Switch DH's direct deposit to Joint Account
- Switch all autopay bills to Joint Account
- Figure out account structure and open/close necessary accounts (personal and business)
- Enter all of my backlogged income and expenses into Quickbooks so I have an accurate look at what I'll owe in taxes

So I will add these January Goals to my sidebar, and hopefully we'll see some progress!

Wishing you all a lovely New Year!

NYE is Here!

December 31st, 2015 at 04:14 pm

I know I've mentioned it before, but I LOVE New Years. Not so much for the partying (though I don't hate that part. haha). It's just exciting to take a look back, learn from my experiences, and look ahead to the possibilities of the future.

2015 was a big year. My look back:

- I shot 16 weddings this year, which is 6 more than the previous. I learned that this volume is a bit too much for me, as I got incredibly burnt out. In 2016 I'll be limiting that number to 10 and focusing my work more on portraiture.
- This is the first year that I didn't work a part time job at all, and focused my time entirely on my business. Which is a huge (and wonderful) change. I'm hoping that I can maintain that in 2016, but we shall see.
- DH turned 30. This was kind of a fun milestone, and we had a really nice celebration.
- DH and I took a trip to Cincinnati to visit with friends and a trip to Nashville to scout out neighborhoods to move to.
- I alone took a trip to Denver to see my dad and visit friends, and then a trip to Montreal and Lake Placid to shoot a wedding, just a week before...
- We got married!

Financially, I can't say I ended the year *much* better than I started it. Because I worked solely at my business and because I wasn't great about putting aside money for taxes, I'm in saving mode to make sure I can cover them without having to dip into our joint account.

We're also now in my slow season, so my income levels wont quite be as high as usual. A lot of my focus in 2016 (after hitting my tax savings goal) will be on organizing my business finances better, so I don't run into this struggle at the end of the year.

One big victory that I made this year, though, is getting into the habit of regularly posting on this blog. I can't describe how much help it is. I keep myself in check much better that way. I’ve added to my morning routine checking my bank accounts (and mint) to see where I am on the budget.

Looking ahead…

2016 will also bring with it some big items:

- In March, we are taking our 10-day honeymoon to Peru
- In April, we are moving to Nashville!
- In May, we are very possibly taking a weekend, all-inclusive trip to Mexico for my 30TH BIRTHDAY!
- DH also wants to take a trip to Denver at some point to visit my dad
- I anticipate quite a few weekend trips after we move, given that we’ll be close to a lot of new cities
- This will also be the first full year that we are married, and handling our finances together (though we still haven’t really jumped in all the way. We need to do that.)

As I mentioned in my previous post, my theme for the year is “Making Space.” I wont have concrete financial goals put together until DH and I sit down and work through them, but I think every month I’m going to have mini goals/challenges of sorts to help me save/earn more. Some examples:

- No Spend Month (outside of essentials)
- Grocery Challenges (cook all dinners under $3/meal)
- Snowflakes (more surveys, Swagbucks, etc.) and being more creative with them (using my Amazon GCs for grocery products, etc.)
- Restaurant Challenge (don’t eat at restaurants at all, only x number of times)
- Make all beauty/cleaning products myself

In January for sure I am going to attempt the no-spend month. This is the time of year that I NEED to be saving as much as possible, and honestly, I just want to learn to make do with what I have. I live in complete abundance. There’s really no reason I need more clothes, books, house stuff, beauty products, etc. The only thing I’m going to rush to pay for before midnight is the acting class that I really want to take in February. It’s only $120, and isn’t “stuff.” I’ve been trying hard to reconnect with my creativity, and DH is entirely supportive. So it’s coming out of our joint account. I’m incredibly excited!!

I was thinking of adding an unlimited Zumba package to that (I went with my SIL last night, and loved it), but for a month I can either just do them online or drive over to where my SIL lives… her classes are free ☺ That is a want, not a need. And I save $30 for the month.

So that’s the idea for January!

***

Tonight we’ll be hosting a NYE party – of like 10 people, so nothing crazy. But I am cooking, and DH is making some fancy cocktails. We spent a little more than I would have liked on stuff for the party, but I still thought it was better than going out and spending a ton on a big dinner or party, and I don’t enjoy crowds. All in all, it was still less than I thought it would be. We’ll have a really great time tonight, our last NYE in town for a while! I’m going to enjoy the not so healthy food today. After midnight, I need to focus on my dietbet and ridding myself of those 7 lbs.

Speaking of unhealthy food – I also gave up fast food in 2015! Today I’ll be heading to McDonald’s for a Big Mac and fries, and then it’s no fast food again until the end of 2016. I’ve gotta say, I’m more than a little excited for that burger.

Hope you all have a lovely NYE!!!

Honeymoon Progress! And Swagbucks.

December 20th, 2015 at 01:37 pm

So though DH and I got married in September, we still haven't gone on (or planned) our honeymoon. I think all of the planning for the wedding burnt us out, and we didn't want to deal with it. Our plan has been to go to Argentina.

Months ago, we found a Groupon deal that hit both Argentina and Brazil, but DH wanted to wait it out for a trip that hit exactly what he wanted to see (including Patagonia), and they stopped offering it after a while.

So yesterday I started poking around, and found a few vacation packages that sounded fantastic. None of them were in Argentina, unfortunately. When I looked for trips there it was either incredibly expensive, or just flights/hotels, and we didn't really want to have to plan much - so we focused on the pre-planned packages with tours and such.

It was up in the air between going to Peru or Japan, and Peru won out - they were both around $2k/person (including flights), and Peru was 2 days longer. Also, I get to cross Machu Picchu off my bucket list! I purchased the Groupon yesterday, and we'll be booking the trip first thing Monday when I can get a hold of the travel agency. If everything goes according to plan, we'll be taking our honeymoon for 10 days in March!

I'm so excited Smile

Even better - I have the Swagbucks button on my browser, so when I went to purchase I clicked the thing to enable my Groupon purchase to add up the points and add it to my account. At 7 SB per dollar spent, I'm earning 27,986 SB. Which seems so hilarious to me for whatever reason. I'll be able to redeem that for at least two $100 gift cards. So even better!

So good news. $2k/person seems so insanely cheap to me - we paid almost that for just our flights to Europe last year. It'll end up being slightly more, because we have to get to JFK to fly out first, but still... for everything included, it seems like a fantastic way to travel.

At any rate, on my way to mom's to bake cookies! Hope you all have a great day Smile

Errands and our New Chair!!

November 20th, 2015 at 02:15 pm

It's not generally like me to be this excited about a piece of furniture, but our chair arrived yesterday and I just LOVE it. Not an expensive one, mind you - $200 recliner on Overstock. But it actually matches our living room and by golly, our house is starting to look like it was purposefully put together and not some college bachelor pad. I've been spending more time in that room, too - reading and generally enjoying the progress we're making.

Sometimes it's the little victories.

***

Today I'll be doing a bit of running around. I called our internet company yesterday AGAIN. I called last week to get my last name changed on the account. They said they were going to email me a form. It never appeared in my inbox. Called yesterday, and the rep said that I had to go to a Cox store to get it changed. Sigh. I loathe dealing with cable companies, and this is why.

So today I'm heading there to get it all taken care of, and going to Verizon to do the same. I was on their website yesterday, too, and it looks like they do military/veterans discounts! So I'll be discussing that as well. I could use a break on my cell bill.

***

I have to stop and get gas - but it's so inexpensive right now, I'm almost excited for it. haha. Yesterday I saw signs for under $2. Hopefully it's remained through today.

I also need to head to the post office and ship off one of my lenses AGAIN. When I got it back, they had solved one, but another developed. Thankfully it's under warranty still and they sent me a prepaid shipping label. So it wont cost me anything to get it back to them. Let's hope the issue is resolved. That lens is kind of my workhorse come wedding season.

***

This weekend is going to be a fun one. Dinner at a friend's tonight. Friendsgiving tomorrow. And we still have 3 meals from our list that we didn't get around to cooking this week, so groceries will be light next week for sure.

Hope you all enjoy yourselves!!

Banking and More Banking

November 9th, 2015 at 08:56 pm

Well, we attempted to open a joint account today - but unfortunately my ID is only a week old and I haven't changed my name elsewhere, so I don't have any bills or such with my address on it. So they weren't able to add me. Despite having pretty much every other piece of paper documenting my existence ever. haha.

Nonetheless, DH opened the account, and I'll be added on as soon as I have proof of address. The important thing is that we got those checks deposited - I hate waiting too long, as I'm sure our wedding guests have been wondering when the money would be pulled from their accounts.

I did, however, get my name changed on my personal account. So there's that. Now I just have to change it in a million other places. Including my business banking. And with my business in general. I don't even know where to start there.

We also finished up sorting through our books and everything in our spare bedroom to see if there's anything we can purge. We loaded up an entire carful (and I drive a Fit, so that's a rather large carful). Also brought a bunch of DVDs to the Exchange, and made $30 - which went to pay for our lunches, and then some. Lastly, we made a stop at Goodwill. While we still have quite a ways to go, our apartment feels so much lighter already! I'm really looking forward to even more.

I think tomorrow I'll run some other errands - including trips to a couple consignment shops to attempt to sell a few things. I have a decent collection of clothes I need to offload still. I also may try to list some of the photography equipment I've been meaning to sell. That to-do list just never ends. haha.

I'm just thankful we have a big move coming up to motivate us. It'll do well for us to downsize!

At any rate, hope you all have a lovely evening!

Business Progress!

December 10th, 2014 at 08:24 pm

I started my photography + design business in October of 2013, on a sort of whim just to "see if I could do it." I looked over my spreadsheets today to get a feel for where I'm at now. And it was a rather invigorating exercise! I took a look at how many jobs I covered each year, how much I made (or will make), and the average per job at this point.

2013
19 jobs (in 3 months, 1 wedding)
$1,506.24
$79.28/job average

2014
27 jobs (9 weddings)
$16,416.26
$608.00/job average

2015 (contracts signed and deposits made)
10 jobs (9 weddings)
$17,400.00
$1,740/job average

Granted, there are a lot of things to keep in mind - In 2013 I was portfolio building, and did a couple of shoots for free. The rest were dirt cheap (a portrait session was $50 and I shot a wedding ceremony for $220. ha). This was only a side gig for me, and most of the marketing I did was for friends and through Craigslist.

This year I operated my business as a side gig until May, when I quit my two other part time jobs (it was a rough spring) to operate full time. I've been pretty exceptionally busy since. I was shooting weddings this year with 3 pricing options between $1,000 and $1,500. A lot of my revenue this year also came from doing work for political candidates (referred exclusively from a friend I used to work with) and real estate photography for a local nonprofit (also referred by a friend who works there). Word of mouth really makes a difference!

As for next year's bookings... I changed my pricing structure to reflect only one real option and upped the price to $2,000 for a wedding (including an engagement session). That was a huge, difficult step for me. I tend to drastically undervalue my work. But here's the thing... people are still hiring me. *Cue amazingly big smile*

My projected earnings outshine this year's already, and that doesn't include everything I'll book throughout the course of 2015 itself. My goal was to book at least 12 weddings for the year, and I'm well on my way.

I'm not saying it's time to retire or anything. I'm hoping to hit only $35k total in earnings pre-taxes next year. But that's a pretty solid living doing something that I just thought I would try out. It's certainly still really hard work. And owning a business is horribly expensive all by itself (I'm looking at $10,000 in expenses this year - over half of which was equipment). But it feels good to know that it's starting to come together. And I really think next year it's going to really start paying off. Which is something that I'm incredibly proud of.

Yay!

Got paid! Woo!

September 7th, 2013 at 05:47 pm

So I hounded my boss enough that yesterday he cut me a check. Our payroll person has been out for the last couple of weeks, and I guess a problem with our servers has made it difficult. Nonetheless, I am $4500 less poor. At least for now.

I deposited the check this morning, so hopefully by Monday I'll be able to move it all around. That's when the fun starts. Pay off the CC, put about $750 in my EF, and then fix my car. After that, it's time to hit those student loans. I just need to make sure I keep enough in my account to cover rent and utilities for next month, and some grocery money, and the $200 I set aside for medical expenses (I need to schedule an appointment).

I sat down with my spreadsheet and worked it out, and it seems I'll be able to put a total of $1,250 toward student loans comfortably, assuming a budget of $500 for car repairs. I'm reeeeeally hoping it's not even that much, but I'd rather be safe than sorry.



If I pay off the CC, pay up the EF, and put $1,250 toward my loans, I should be left with $1,569 in my account-- which will get me to my next paycheck, ideally, including those repairs. Potentially more, if I underestimate a couple of those expenses. That would be nice...

---

So that's spending on big ticket items, here's the recap of spending over the last week:



"Health and fitness" is my insurance payment, and my rent should sneak in next week when my landlord cashes my check. But as you can see, food and dining is only at about $63-- which only includes a $10 non-grocery purchase (ice cream for BF and my weekly Sunday tradition). Woooo!!! If you compare that to the same time period last month, you see a rather large difference:



Have I mentioned I love Mint?! Something about being able to visualize the difference graphically really resonates with me.

---

Last night did end up going out with friends. All of my drinks were covered by BF and his roomies, as I drove home (so I only had a few anyway). Cooked enchiladas before going out. BF really liked them. We'll be making that again.

Not sure exactly what the plans are tonight, but hopefully it won't be too crazy. I'm exhausted from going out last night, and not really wanting to do too much celebrating. I'd be happy just lounging around my apartment all night, in all honesty.

Tomorrow I'm hoping to really do a number on my apartment. It sorely needs to be cleaned. It's probably not a terrible idea to look at my grocery situation and decide what I'll be cooking this coming week. I'm happy to say that I actually cooked all 3 meals I intended to make. That's pretty good for me. I usually have grand plans, and then end up throwing food away because I'm too lazy to cook... ugh.

Nurturing better habits here!

Hope you are all having a fantastic weekend!

Goal Achieved!

November 18th, 2012 at 12:20 am

I can happily say that I have paid off my very first loan!!! I know it's the smallest one, and the one with the lowest interest rate, but it feels good to cross one off the list Smile I've also simultaneously reached a goal an entire month and a half early. Paid the final $399.72 today because I got paid yesterday. I feel the progress indeed.

I'm still under budget total for the month. I over-budgeted for the vet, but that savings funded a new set of gloves, a hat, and a scarf for me. Considering I've treated myself very little in the past few months, I feel okay about the purchase despite the fact that they weren't necessarily a *need*.

I still feel that I'll come out of November under budget. I can't say I'll have much extra income... mostly because I've been strapped for time recently and not devoting as much to my freelance work. I still need to squeeze in at least 8 more hours this month just to make what I budgeted for. With the holiday coming up this week I'm hoping that's possible. I'm looking forward to xmas break. I feel like I'm going to really bank with the extra time I'll have. My client has another project he'd like me on as well. There just aren't enough hours in the day.

I've been eating at restaurants a bit too much as of this week, though I'm still under budget. Just have to watch it in the coming weeks and stop with all the Dunkin Donuts coffee and wraps... Paid my internet bill today, and got all caught up on tracking. Feels good.

So the next goal... Paying off my highest interest loan by the end of next year. That's $12,802.56 in 13 months, or $884.81 every month-- or really more than that, because that doesn't include the tax. We're looking at close to $1,000/month-- so we'll see if I can reach the goal. I have faith (and more importantly, determination). I'll have a leg-up in January because I have a $1,000 in scholarship money coming my way. In April I'll be using any tax return money to put toward my debt, so that will also help.

Regardless, that is my mission and I hope to accomplish!!

Time for me to get to work. I hope you all have a fantastic rest of your weekend.

End of Month Recap and Looking Toward November

November 1st, 2012 at 03:58 pm

Hello everyone!

I hope you all had a wonderful October, and are managing to stay warm and dry. I've been without power since Monday night, but nonetheless am doing well. My thoughts are with all of those (severely) effected by the storm.

It's the first of November, which means it's time for my recap. This is the first month I'll be analyzing after deciding to do a serious financial makeover... and I'm happy to say that it's done well for me.

Here's how I panned out with the budget:



I ended up being in total $34.38 under budget for the month. This is pretty pivotal for me. I don't think I've ever created a budget for myself that I was able to stick to-- and that was including a $530 contribution to my emergency fund.

I don't think that's the best part, though. I ended up making way more money this month than I anticipated. Because of my raise at work, selling off over $200 worth of books on Amazon, returning items to IKEA, having a longer drill weekend than usual, taking on a big freelance project, and that little bit I got from doing a friend's laundry... I made $951.76 over my budget. Needless to say, I'm pretty pumped about that!!!

And every little bit of it is going toward student loans.

BOO-YAH.

It feels great to be making progress. I've budgeted $850 toward debt for November, which will have me reaching my goal to pay off the SM7 Loan a month earlier than I had hoped. I feel great about that. I applied a $650 payment this morning, which put me under $1k. Once I get my GI Bill payment I'll add the balance from October, and start paying toward my budgeted amount for November.

Then it's on to the next loan!

I struggle a bit with Dave Ramsey's logic. I went with the smallest loan for this first time around, and it happens to be the one with the lowest interest rate. I know I should be tackling the ones with the higher interest rates, but I agree with his logic that making progress is energizing. I'm thinking the next goal will be one of the mid-range total pricetags and interest rates, that way I get a bit of both worlds.



I adjusted my budget a bit this month, and it's a bit bigger-- to account for a larger debt payment and a couple of big items I need to address. My car, of course, is the big one there. My brakes are getting even worse, and I need an oil change. I also need to take my little fuzzball to the vet for some shots. In both cases I'm hoping the charges are not outrageous, but it feels good to know I have money available to me if something crazy happens nonetheless.

I think the real challenge will be keeping up with the workload that is supporting this progress. School is certainly gearing up and will be over before I know it. There's really only a little over a month left, after all.

I have a feeling I'll be able to make it work, though. And winter break I'll have even more time to pare away at this debt! Very exciting thoughts Smile

So here's to a successful October, and looking to an equally successful November!

Busy weekend coming to a close

October 29th, 2012 at 12:06 am

I feel like this weekend went by in a whirlwind. Friday night didn't end up doing much. The BF and I went out to dinner, then I was so exhausted when we got back to his place that I fell asleep... at 9:30. ha. We were supposed to go out with friends and I am so happy those plans never really came to fruition. Considering I slept a full 12 hours, I needed to catch up on the Z's.

Yesterday we went with a friend to figure out the Halloween costume situation. This is always my favorite holiday, and I've been a bit bummed because I didn't have the time to pour into a really snazzy costume. I love to sew and Halloween is usually my time to shine. I did not, however, want to spend a lot of money on anything. The end result was a $1 pair of fairy wings from the thrift store, roughly 4 yards of green tulle, and some random flowers and ribbon at the craft store. I was Poison Ivy a few years ago and reused the same green leotard and green tights. Voila. Tinkerbell. I think I spent about $11 total... and putting together the "tutu" was pretty painless.

The three of us went out to the bar and had a few drinks. BF went at Bob Ross and he quickly became one of the most popular people there. haha. Who doesn't love happy little trees?

Had a bit of a spendy weekend, however. Bought BF and I dinner yesterday, a round of drinks at the bar. Today I went to Giant Eagle and picked up a few things-- cat food, conditioner, a few other things. No terribly frivolous purchases, but at the end of the day spent $35. I'm still under budget, by about $70 (I think. I didn't save my bar receipt and it hasn't hit my account yet). I'm going to definitely adjust my budget a bit next month to account for more grocery money. I certainly don't regret any of the money I've spent in the last week, but it's tough seeing it go. haha. I consider that a good thing.

I finished up with my first round of getting paid to wash laundry. He needs to pick it up and pay me, but it was pretty painless. I looked at some of the rates per pound that people pay, and calculated it out. I'm charging him $1/pound, then additional per load because my apt has coin operated. All in all, I'm making $30 and that's not bad in my opinion for a little bit of work. In the following weeks I'll just be washing it with my own laundry because there wont be quite so much volume. This kid clearly went a few weeks. haha.

In other financial news, I've negotiated rates for a project I'm taking on-- a strategic communications plan, website development, and social media account setup and training. I'm terrible about selling myself short, and because I would still consider myself to be an amateur graphic designer, I tend to sell even shorter. Originally talked about $15/hr. For someone who has to this point never worked a big girl job, this sounds like a lot. I'm still stuck in college employment and internship mode. I figured I would value myself a bit more and went $20/hr, which they agreed to. I still feel like it's a success, despite knowing what some people charge for these kinds of services. It's for a nonprofit, so I feel better not charging them like crazy. At the same time, though, I really need to get a feel for my worth in this business at some point that's fair to my skill level and creative talent.

Baby steps.

At any rate, I hope you all had a fantastic weekend and enjoy the rest of this Halloween season! BF and I will be carving pumpkins Tuesday night. Pretty pumped! Cheers!

Midterms Done!

October 25th, 2012 at 02:44 am

So this past weekend and beginning of this week were spent struggling to finish two midterms. I'm happy to say the second one was turned in this afternoon Smile

Work has calmed down considerably. I'm no longer harboring that panicked feeling that I'm not going to get everything done in time. It was almost awkward being able to work at a relatively "leisurely" pace today. It's refreshing and my head feels in a better place (despite the drain caused by these tests).

Spending has been minimal for the last couple of days. Paid my recurring spotify bill and monthly donation to the Human Rights Campaign. I also had to write a $25 check to the university for my graduation application. Wasn't anticipating that one, but ah well. I'm still very much under budget.

This weekend will be a busy one. Going out with friends to celebrate Halloween Friday night. Saturday I'll be taking part in "Make a Difference Day" with the BF, volunteering somewhere in the area... though I'm not sure which project he decided on. I let him choose Smile After volunteering, we'll be carving pumpkins together then going out again Saturday night dressed up, though that will be far more low-key.

After racking my brain for a few days now about what costume to go with, I feel like I've come up with something that is almost zero cost and can be thrown together very quickly: Clue Characters. Thinking we just may pick up a candlestick, some rope, etc, and dress up. I'm sure we could find creative ways to play out the characters a bit more. Halloween is by far my favorite holiday, and I usually go all out, but this year I just haven't had the time to sew a costume and plan properly. Ah well. I'm much more interested in carving pumpkins and spending time out with the BF Smile

Reading over volunteering opportunities got me really inspired to do more. I love getting involved in general, and though I constantly make excuses about how busy I am, I'm going to make time to volunteer more. It's important enough to devote even just a few hours a month. I found this great organization in the area called Junior Achievement, which partners with area schools and has volunteers come in and teach financial literacy to kids. I contacted them and am set up to do the orientation in a couple of weeks. The idea of visiting a 3rd grade class 5 times to teach is thrilling. I'm very excited about it... but I wont be doing it until April. I indicated my availability to be for the spring semester, but I think I may look into starting earlier, or maybe finding a tutoring opportunity for low-income kids. I really do love working with kids. It's so energizing.

In odd financial news, the BF's friend is one of those 27 year old men that still has yet to do a single load of laundry himself and just moved into a situation where his mother (and ex girlfriend) are not able to do it for him on the regular. Though on principle I feel like I should encourage him to just do it himself because it's pathetic he's never touched a washing machine, the entrepreneurial spirit in me figures that I'd rather capitalize on the patheticness of the situation. He's dropping his clothes off tomorrow and I'm going to graciously wash them for some fee that we're going to negotiate. Bless the lazy single men of America. More dollars will be headed toward chipping away at that hefty student debt pile. Maybe he'll need someone to clean his new apartment, too... haha.

I think that's about it! Waking up early to work out then heading into the office. Hope you all have a fantastic night!

Getting a Raise (sort of)!

October 8th, 2012 at 03:50 pm

I have a little extra time here for the next 20 minutes or so, so I figured I'd check in... particularly because I got some great news yesterday.

When I was hired on for this job, my boss basically said he'd be paying me for 20 hours/week through the university as per my GA contract. He encouraged me to work more than that, but said I was only obligated to work 20.

I've been working a whole lot more than 20 hours a week.

Because they pay my tuition, I wasn't particularly angry about it, but working 30-40 hours per week doesn't really leave a whole lot of time open to pick up any side jobs (or keep up with my school work). I have a lot of people asking me to pick up projects with them as a contractor, but not too much time to do so. I'm trying to work my schedule to change part of that... but over the weekend my boss sent an email saying that I've been doing a great job, and offered to pay me for 30 hours per week (essentially to make up for the stressful workload. ha).

I would be expected to work at least 30 hours, but of course I work that already. So of course I'm open to that setup! I'm essentially getting a 50% raise. So I can add about $400 to my monthly income. Seems like paying off that loan by the end of the year is going to be easier than I thought Smile

Just wanted to share the good news!

Today's spending will be minimal since I went grocery shopping last night-- $30 for the week, but I should have stuff leftover for next week. Really just have to cover the cost of mailing this book out, and I'm set. My schedule is packed tight with work, homework, yoga, and relaxation time. I woke up at 7am this morning and worked out for a half an hour. I'm feeling good as a result. Just have to keep on this schedule. Speaking of which, I should get going Smile

Hope you all have a great day!

Hit my October Goal Already!

October 4th, 2012 at 12:57 pm

So yesterday my GI Bill money hit the account, and I moved a few hundred dollars into my savings account to add to my EF. But then I realized I'm getting my paycheck tomorrow, have over $100 on the way from the books I sold on Amazon, and will get a bigger than normal drill pay this month because it's longer than our usual 2-day.

So I said what the hey, let's just round it off. I made another $230 contribution and there it was. I had $1,000 in my savings account.

It's only the 4th of the month and I've hit my goal Smile

It feels good to have a little money in savings. It also feels good to know I can start jumping on my debt payments as well. I feel like my goal to have that loan paid off by the end of the year will be no problem.

It feels good to be on track and in control of my finances. I thought pulling together that kind of money would take a while... because I've had such trouble saving up any amount of money in the past. But really I just made a few changes, looked for a way to generate a little more income this month, and BAM. There it is. I like this game. haha.

I really haven't spent any extra money this week. I've spent $0 on food at restaurants. That's a huge deal. Not one cup of Starbucks coffee has been purchased. Not one lunch. Not one dinner. That has freed up quite a bit of money.

This weekend I'll be at drill, which means all of my meals are covered and I wont really have money to go out. I need to be hiding in the barracks when I'm not busy, anyway, doing schoolwork. I have a lot of reading to catch up on.

The only expenses I see coming up are my trip to Boston and Halloween. My flight and hotel room are covered by work (it's for our yearly conference), but food and whatnot there I'm assuming I will have to cover. I have no idea what I'm doing for Halloween, but I can usually keep it pretty cheap. An oil change is the only other special expense I can think of for this month. Oh, and soccer fees.

But anyhoo. Back to today. Excited to hit that goal, and looking forward to hitting more!

Cheers, everyone!

An overdue commitment- but I'm back again!

September 30th, 2012 at 02:50 am

Writing today is interesting for a variety of reasons. It's been over a year since I've been on SA, and even longer since I made a visit to Pittsburgh. Given that I joined this community (and started this blog) in preparation to move there, my visit there coinciding with a refreshing of its contents seems rather timely.

As I was showing my friends the city, I was reminiscing about the different places I went, where certain events occurred. And I casually mentioned, "Oh yeah, but that was about 7 years ago." Then it hit me and I had to repeat it to myself: I moved to Pittsburgh 7 years ago. It feels like just yesterday I was a 19 year old moving out of her parents house, embarking on the fringe of the real world. Paying bills, continuing on with college, you know... the stuff of adulthood.

Fast forward almost a decade(!), and it seems like my entire world has evolved in a way that I never even imagined when I signed up for this little site, hoping it would help me save up some money for my grand transition into adulthood. I didn't stay in Pittsburgh. I moved back to Ohio 5 years ago. After a very long journey, I finally got my B.A. I joined the army. The guy I moved in with in PA was my first really long-term relationship. I've had two more since. I've started grad school, laid the foundation (I believe) for a very successful career, met the man that I know I will marry in just a couple short years, and will be graduating in only 7 months.

I've also amassed almost $60,000 in student debt. And it's a scary. Pardon my french, but that's a lot of f*&#ing money. It's really scary given that some of my debt has a hefty 9.75% interest rate attached to it, and all taken into account, my monthly payments will total at minimum $500. It's a very serious reality that I'm struggling with, but I still don't count it a total financial failure of the last 7 years.

When I moved to Pittsburgh, I had a waitressing job, no car, zero credit, and a serious dependency issue when it came to men (both financially and emotionally). I now work in a management position of a national nonprofit, have my own apartment for the very first time in my life as of a year ago, never struggle to pay my bills, paid cash for my car (though I worry daily it could explode on me), and rely on absolutely nobody in my financial life. My credit cards were at one point maxed, but they rest at a big fat $0 balance as of last week.

Needless to say, I have a lot to be proud of. But a long way to go yet.

Last week I downloaded an app on my iPhone (exhale. It's only a 4, not even the 4S, and I had a flip phone up until this summer. ha) that is supposed to help in debt reduction. I had to go in and put every single loan I have into it. It's probably one of the more depressing things I've done lately. Not an easy number to look at. But the positive here is that it really put into perspective what I'm dealing with here, and made me realize just how important it is for me to start taking care of this now. As a student for the last 8 years, it's been easy to ignore my student loans. They were always something I would have to deal with at some point, after I graduate.

Well... yeah, about that.

I downloaded Dave Ramsey's money makeover on the iTunes credit I had with the purchase of my laptop this year, and started reading through it. Though I can't say I *love* everything he says or every story that's in it (and I do skip through a lot), it highlighted some things I need to start doing, and emphasized something that I really need to put into context: I need a behavior change.

Though I live comfortably and don't struggle to pay my bills, I live way above my means when I take into consideration that looming debt. I'm a girl that loves food, loves eating at restaurants, is a total beer snob (and frequent drinker of microbrews). I tend to buy more clothes than I should, and have a bit of a Starbucks weakness during the school year. Whereas I don't think there's anything wrong with treating myself every once in a while, it's like, woah buddy. We need to take a step back.

So I suppose that's the first step. I've admitted I have a problem. I put a face on it. A big ugly, 5-figure face. And I'm ready to take control of it. I'm generally using Dave's system. I paid off that nasty credit card before reading that, so there's that. But now that it's done with, I'm working on that emergency fund. That car's exploding, and I feel it's exploding soon.

I'm in the process of trying to find more creative ways to add to that emergency fund so I can hit $1,000 and start on the debt. In the last 24 hours I've sold two textbooks and returned $80 worth of stuff I hadn't yet put up in my apartment from IKEA.

Let it be known that when I returned that stuff at IKEA today that I didn't make one purchase afterwards.

I know this sounds silly, but it's a huge step. The BF was absolutely amazed. My two friends were absolutely amazed. I was absolutely amazed.

I'm learning to say no and bring my coffee from home in a travel mug. I'm cooking dinner for a week so that I'm not tempted to stop and get something before class.

We're getting there.

I know this is a lot of information at one time, but it's also been a while. And today I felt really good about my financial behavior. Before heading to Pittsburgh for the day, I withdrew $50 from my bank account, limited myself, and still came home with $12 (as well as the $80 that will be credited to my CC account). I had an amazing time with two of my best friends (a much needed and well-deserved getaway), and there's not one purchase I regret- mostly because it was all tolls, transportation costs, only two beers, and one very delicious Primanti's sandwich.

I feel like this is yet another journey I'm starting in this community... and in many ways starting in a very similar way. Thinking about the person I am today, however, I feel much better equipped to make the kinds of choices I need to make. I'm older, of course. 26 feels worlds apart from 19 at this point. I also have quite a few important decisions to make in the next few years: what job should I take? Where do I want to live? When will I get my PhD? Should I get that second MA instead? When do I want to start a family? Buy a house? All of these questions are really a "we" instead of an "I" as well.

There are a lot of unknown factors... but I do know that my debt will affect where I'll be able to live, because making a certain wage has become incredibly important. Ridding it will open me up to a much wider range of possibilities. Though the BF having a really great job and earning potential is fantastic, I'm never going to let that fact solely dictate my future. I have to be able to do it on my own if need be.

So here we are. I've got some goals. I've got some methods. I'll talk about those a little later, but I wanted to at least give anyone who bothered reading a little frame of reference.

For all of you who have supported me in the past, thank you so much. The things I've learned on this site have truly informed me (though my time away certainly shows a lack of regard for that knowledge). For those who will help me along this particular journey, I'm equally appreciative, and hope I can be a source of knowledge and inspiration for you as well-- because these things aren't easy to do. It's nice to have a little support.

To cut this novel a little short, hope you all have a wonderful night, and I look forward to reintegrating myself into this community! Cheers!

Week Wrap-up

March 6th, 2011 at 04:05 pm

So I did good this week. Didn't spend any money out at restaurants, and spent minimally elsewhere. I did purchase my camera this week, so that was a bigger one. But the going out, the little extras were none. I count it a win.

Today is Sunday, which means grocery shopping day. I'll be hitting Aldi, then Marc's as usual. I'm expecting this week to be on the cheaper side, thankfully. Our grocery bills went through the roof last month. Too much stuff we didn't really need and extravagant meals (though those bacon wrapped scallops were totally worth it). This week we'll be utilizing as much stuff we already have on hand as possible. I'm back into super saving mode.

Why am I back into super saving mode? I looked at my student loans again Frown I feel like I'm consistently right where I started, and I'm getting really aggressive with it now. Because my CC has been paid off for a while now, there really is no excuse. I made a $500 payment the other day, but I'd like to throw at least another $100 by the end of the month.

After grocery shopping I'll be heading to my mom's to make sure my sister is still alive (mom is away in FL this weekend) and make dinner. And work. I'm trying to maximize the amount of $ I can make this week. Next week is spring break! That means playing catchup with my school work, trying to make even more money, and taking a day trip to Columbus with a friend. Very exciting Smile

At any rate, I should get this day started (for real). It's already 11:00, after all! Hope you all have a great Sunday!

Hel-lo Taxes :)

January 31st, 2011 at 08:32 pm

So I sat down today and went through TaxACT to file the numbers. Wow. That's all I can say. In fun news:

*My gross adjusted income was $23k. Surprisingly better than usual.
*Roughly 3k of that was made freelancing- pretty good considering I didn't really get into it until April.
*My tax return is almost $3k. WHAT?!

It's a bit shocking, I must say. I mean, last year it was a bit over $1k. But wow. I checked all my numbers 300 times, included EVERYTHING. I was probably more honest than every other person in the country. lol. All of my freelancing income was reported, along with babysitting money and the crap that I bought online and didn't pay sales tax for. I mean, I made more than I did last year and got more education credit because I went both semesters, but jeez. How exciting!

Needless to say, the money will be going into savings and toward debt. I guess I've got a bit of a head start on saving for that traveling. Entirely fantastic. I can also afford to go and get myself a new pair of glasses (finally). I guess thank you, Uncle Sam, for giving me my money back- at a time I can really use it.

I guess being in a low income bracket has its perks! Yay for me Smile

In spending news, I paid the $18 to file my State taxes. Well worth it, I would say!

More tales of free health services

November 8th, 2010 at 08:46 pm

So I had to get my lady checkup today-- the army requires it, and it's mandatory to get my prescriptions refilled every year. But because it's been a year, Planned Parenthood had to reassess my financial standing.

Hot diggity, I qualify for donation-based care.

It makes me both happy and sad. Happy, of course, because that means less money out of my pocket. Sad because it means I'm really darn poor. lol.

I gave them a $50 donation-- which is MUCH less than I would have paid for the exam and 3 month supply of my prescription. I think last year I paid $80 for the exam, and 3 months of pills for me usually runs $36. I figure every three months I'll give them a $10-15 donation and call it even. How exciting!

Last month I had to get a dental check-up for the military, and the hygienists gave me a free cleaning-- very exciting for someone who hasn't seen a dentist in prob 2 years. Let's hope the free health services train keeps rolling!

I think the only other thing I need to do soon is get a new pair of glasses. I heard walmart does exams for very affordable prices, and a friend of mine grabbed a few pairs online for next to nothing and loved them. I think I may have to go that route. If I could get a new pair under $100 with the exam, I will be thrilled. Guess we'll see how things go!

Alrighty, back to work for me. Just had to share the happy but bittersweet news. lol.

Vacation Official: Plane Ticket Purchased :)

September 9th, 2010 at 03:24 am

So BF and I purchased our plane tickets to Micronesia for December. Though my bank account is now $1858 lighter, I feel so great about it. I've been trying to leave the country to see new places since high school. It only took 6 years... So exciting!

The better news is that I'm not completely broke, even after making such a large purchase. I'm certainly not rolling in the dough, but things are good. Really good.

I picked up an assignment for a website I wrote for previously, and they want me to cover a couple articles for them-- at $100/pop. Woo! Guess I don't feel too silly for giving them the last one for free. That'll be a nice push in the income for October, and they have a couple more coming up in November and December that they'll throw at me. Yay Smile

The writing has been fabulous this week, and I'm feeling rather productive. Not really spending a whole lot. Did have to take Baby to get his shots at the vet this morning. That ran $32. I bought another Groupon... these things are pretty sweet. Restaurants and bars I would go to anyway, and it'll cut the cost down in half.

I've got drill this weekend, so the spending should be way down. Still haven't spent a red cent on campus for meals. Yay for being a packer Smile

Alright, it's really time for me to get to sleep now. I think I'm getting delirious. lol. Just wanted to share in my celebration (there have been so many of them as of late)!

Night everyone!

Paid off the Credit Card :D

August 31st, 2010 at 12:24 pm

So keeping up with the theme, August was the month of many good financial things-- my big Army windfall helped out a lot with all this, but it was much overdue.

Today's big news, as you can tell, is that my credit card is PAID OFF. I made the payment just a few minutes ago. I'm worried that the interest may still be charged, because it takes a couple days to process the payment and it's the 31st. Regardless, I still count it a win as it is a big fat zero in my spreadsheet!

So what now? As you can see on my sidebar, there are only 2 longer term financial goals listed... save up for vacation money (as the plane ticket money is already in my account), and pay off my student loans. That will be the big one, for sure.

I also want to start an emergency fund after my vacation money is saved up (which hopefully wont take too long, esp considering I wont be making CC payments anymore).

I feel so much more financially stable than I did earlier this year. I've completed a number of goals for the year, and I'm super pumped about that. It feels like things are really coming together, and I feel a bit more financially responsible. It's a really good feeling.

Next? Once the payment goes through, I want to check my credit score Smile It's been a while, and I can only imagine that paying it off improved it, which was the goal. I'll be crossing my fingers!

Alrighty, time to get moving! Class soon!

And she has a car :)

August 27th, 2010 at 07:59 pm

Well, went and looked at that snazzy 2001 Toyota corolla... and bought it. It was exactly what I was looking for, and handles great. Ran me less than expected-- $5300 out the door, and with less than 100k miles. And it's a manual Smile

So I have a set of wheels, and just set up insurance with Geico. They did me well before and have discounts that applied. So I even got full coverage (mind you, with a $500 deductible), but for only $65/month. Not bad.

I've updated my sidebar... I have the money to pay for a plane ticket (and will be doing so within a couple weeks), so my savings for now is for actual money to be spent on Vacation. Woot. I put a $500 payment on my CC and I'm down to $764.20. I'll get that reimbursement check from the university today, deposit it tomorrow, and pay off the balance next week. Wooooo hoooooo!!!! Everything not spent on the CC will be put into savings, naturally Smile

So very exciting to be in this great financial place. Today not much going on, except we need to get stuff for the kitty that is coming home sunday. I'm veeery excited about this, and cant wait to get the apartment all set up. Tonight is board game night with friends. Good times all around. So more spending will commence here in a bit, but nothing too crazy. Groceries need to be bought, and cat stuff. woot.

Just wanted to share my excitement. I would post pics, but my battery charger has been at camp since my job ended. I'll be picking that up today as well. Yay errands... yay being able to drive myself to said errands! lol.

Later, guys!


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