Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye 2008, Hello 2009!

In my 2008 Year in Review, I already revealed how I failed at my yearly goals (which weren't set until late May) but how I wasn't too upset about it. I've been trying to compile my goals for 2009 but since my job status is so in flux right now I haven't really gotten around to it.

I'm sure I'll look back at 2008 and miss it - it is the first calendar year I've spent with Boyfriend - but right now I'm a little anxious about 2009. Here's what I hope will happen next year:

1. I will get a new job.
2. I will move in with Boyfriend finally.
3. I will travel (more on this later).
4. I will save up an Emergency Fund.
5. I will continue to contribute to my retirement fund.
6. I will get my wisdom teeth extracted.

Those are not goals, per se, but things that are 99% set in motion already that I hope will go over smoothly in 2009. Once the dust settles and I know which out two or three different job possibilities pan out, I will be able to write some tangible goals.

In the meantime, Boyfriend and I are cooking our Big Ass Turkey for a celebration tonight!

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Waiting for the Call...

There's a fairly good chance I will learn the fate of my career in the next several hours. Did my $100k investment in my education pay off? Will I get a $20k salary boost? Will I be the absolute last New York State employee hired before the hiring freeze of all hiring freezes takes effect?

Or will I toil away at my once very fulfilling but now completely bogus appointment job that is only guaranteed for the next 92 days?

Stay tuned....

Friday, December 26, 2008

Budget 12/24-1/06

I hope everyone had a great Christmas! I'll keep this short and sweet and my little Sis is currently sleeping in the room as I type it (Internet withdrawal!) but here's my Budget for the next two weeks, albeit two days late:

Starting Balance = 1160 (a little higher than usual since my Hobby Check hasn't cleared yet)

Hobby - 35
Rent - 725
Water - 50
Utilities - 112 (40 towards Payment Agreement)
School Loan - 40
Sprint - 64
Xmas Present - 25
Groceries - 60
Misc. - 49

I may be getting some Christmas cash from the Rents but nothing is certain yet. I had a very nice Christmas with my family, despite that every time my mom gave me a sweater she said it was for my "new job," never mind the fact that 1) I don't have the job yet and 2) the job in question requires me to wear suits every day. Oh family! But hey, new sweaters!

Won't be back to regular blogging until Sunday but until then Happy Holidays all!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Where It Went 12/10 - 12/23

Gotta post my budget review a day early as tomorrow will be busy traveling for the holidays. I should be "home" now but decided to delay the trip to hang out with Boyfriend's OOT friends tonight instead. And believe me, after a crazy day interviewing and then surviving a work crisis, I wasn't in the mood to hit the Thruway or the rails. This decision may be a major fail in retrospect as we're about to get hit with another winter storm tomorrow (in addition the the foot of snow currently on the ground).

So here's why my money went unless something crazy happens before my paycheck gets direct deposited tomorrow morning:


Credit Card - 100/100
Aunt Sallie Mae - 406/406.96
Defaulted Student Loan - 260/260
Nice Collection Agency - 125/125.81
Prescription Co-Pay - 15/15
Hobby Fee - 35/0 (has not cleared)
Shopping - 45+/45+ (see below)
Groceries - 50/45

I got $258 unexpectedly. I spent it. In fact I spent $281 in miscellaneous unbudgeted items including a new suit, a hair cut and Christmas presents which means I am lucky that my Hobby Check always takes weeks to clear and I didn't get an overdraft fee for being $9 over budget. Total Fail.

But c'est le vie. Christmas is finally here and as stressed as I am right now about a lot of things I'm looking forward to spending some time celebrating with my family. Happy Holidays to you all!

Friday, December 19, 2008

I Got The Second Interview!

Boyfriend and I had already started our Friday celebration early in light of the huge snowstorm so I missed a call on my cell phone. But guess what the happy message left for me said? I have been called in to a second interview on Tuesday with the Big Big Boss. I think (cross fingers) this means I am the final candidate for the position. I should have known my new power suit would bring me luck. Back to celebrating my good fortune!

I Spent Money on Myself!

Remember that $258 windfall I got a mere three days ago? Well I hope you do because it's gone. Bye bye money. I know I said I was going to send it to such worthy causes as the dentist, my Boyfriend and the State Bar Association but then my cell phone broke.

I pay for the insurance every month so I hoped it wouldn't cause a financial nightmare to get it fixed but it did require me to go to the mall. Here's how I did:

Bus to/from the mall - $2
Cost to fix cell phone - $0 (nice!)
Cost to eat dinner at the mall - $7 (boo)
Brand new black pants suit - $57 (yay!)
Present for myself - $20

The pants suit is really nice and there was such a huge sale that I really can't say I regret getting it. I really needed a nice suit to wear for my interview and my only other pants suit is too tight now. I consider the suit an investment in myself (one that I hope paid off today on my interview!).

The present for myself? Well it's something I've been meaning to get for a long time and I took advantage of the holiday sales to snag a great deal. By the way, being in the mall was kind of surreal. The stores are begging people to come in, I swear. I usually hate the mall but people were so friendly on this visit it made me wish I had more money to spend! Well I guess I did my small part for the economy.

Yesterday at lunch I browsed the holiday fair they have set up at work and found three great presents - one for Boyfriend ($18), my BFF ($20), and my Sister and BIL ($15). Yes, technically these weren't things I was planning on buying without the windfall but it's Christmas and I love giving presents.

Then I decided I should get my hair cut for my interview. It looks great and came to be $40 including tip. After the hair cut I went to the bar and had a gin and tonic ($7) and then stopped by the liquor store and got a bottle of Pinot Grigio ($10). Today, after my interview I went to the grocery store and spent $21 on materials to make Spinach Artichoke dip for a party tonight.

In essence, I have spent that entire windfall in three days. But hopefully I'll be getting a better job any day now. The interview went very well I think. The job is unfortunately not in walking distance to where I live but the bus only took 15 minutes so it's a lot more convenient than the other job I traveled by bus to interview for.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Not Laid Off...Yet

Two amazing things happened today:

I got an interview for a better job! And

I got an email saying my office is extending all of our employment papers until March 31st!

I'm very excited that no matter what I will have a job in 2009, even more excited at the prospect of it being a better job. Now I officially have three irons on the fire and I'm feeling good as we go into the holidays.

The interview is on Friday so I'll report back with details. In the meantime, my co-workers, many who have absolutely NO backup plan, are very excited.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

More Good News!

Taking stock of all my finances tonight I logged into my credit card account and saw a balance below $400 for the first time! "That's funny," I thought until I realized that my persistent complaining got them to reverse the finance and late fees for the payment that never got processed. Thus, the $100 payment I made went entirely to the principal. Excellent!

This is my highest interest debt and if I don't get laid off I hope to have it knocked out by next February. Now my goal is even closer in sight!

A $258 Christmas Miracle!!!

I've been feeling a little under the weather today. Nothing to do with finances but those weren't so hot either. Yesterday I discovered that the $30 check I wrote for my hobby trip just cleared the bank. This is in addition to the $15 fee the organization running the event was not supposed to cash. Granted, thirty bucks isn't enough to get upset about but when your budget is as tight as mine is it means that something essentially has got to give. And I know I should keep an old-fashioned check register but I am just not that organized - yet.

I also realized that it costs about $30 to take the bus back home for Christmas if I intent to leave Tuesday like I planned. And where is that money going to come from? I suppose I could charge it since I just paid extra to my credit card but that wasn't my first choice option. Or I could wait to take the bus until I get paid on Wednesday, a.k.a. Christmas Eve, but that wasn't my first choice option either. Believe me, the bus is already crowded enough on a regular day.

Alas it seems that Santa Claus has solved my problems for me because I checked my mail today and received a $258 check! Now this is where the story gets a little hairy - exactly two Christmases ago I got a call from a telemarketer asking me if I wanted a free vacation. She said I had a week to cancel the "vacation club membership" but that the vacation coupons were mine to keep! Long story really short, I got ripped off. I took my complaint to the BBB, my bank, the Florida Attorney General, you name it. And now I finally get my money back! [Word to the wise: don't be an idiot and give your bank account number over the phone.]

Now, I can't go all crazy with this check since a) I don't know how long it will take to clear my account and b) I still have the following un-budgeted items to pay for:
  1. Hobby Christmas party BYO and optional grab bag item ($10 + cost of beer)
  2. Ghetto Christmas Office Pizza Party ($5)
  3. Boyfriend's Condo Party Optional Gab Bag ($10?)
  4. Bus home for Christmas $30
  5. My share of joint gifts with Boyfriend ($60)
  6. Professional Association annual dues ($50)
  7. Might as well pay the dentist finally ($25)
That still leaves me with a little left over so I may purchase one small Christmas gift. I'm pretty psyched to be getting my money back, especially since I had pretty much written it off at this point. Merry Christmas to me courtesy of a class action law suit!

Friday, December 12, 2008

2008 in Review

Since I have the day off and it's snowing about a foot an hour it's a good time to review how this year has gone financially. If you look at the left side of my blog you'll see that months and months ago I posted the following goals:
  1. Create an Emergency Fund of $700.
  2. Increase salary to $55,000.
  3. Start Health Savings Account.
  4. Make regular contributions to Roth IRA.
How did I do with those goals? I failed at all of them, ha! But here's why I'm not that upset about it: they were the wrong goals (except for the Emergency Fund). Months back I blamed my Salary for my struggles with the Payday Loan Sharks and my constant overdraft problem. I really thought that if my paycheck was bigger then it wouldn't matter that I had no idea where my money was going. False! Now that I set a budget and try to stick to it I don't get overdrafted constantly and find I can afford just about everything I need and want on my salary of $43,600. In the coming weeks I will (cross fingers) be making slightly more (or be unemployed) - more on that when there's more to tell.

Which brings me to my Emergency Fund. This is a major fail but it's still a goal I'm very committed to and will carry over to 2009. Since I started paying my Student Loans and contributing to my retirement fund this year I have been really unable to find a regular amount every pay period to put in my Emergency Fund. I've started a fund but it's pretty much empty right now. With the potential job insecurity looming I have realized that even $700 in an Emergency Fund would be woefully inadequate since I would have to make up a deficit between my anticipated Unemployment Benefits and my current fixed expenses.

Instead of an Emergency Fund thus far I've created an Emergency Plan which is to dump my apartment once and for all. Even though it's right down the block from Boyfriend's condo and is beautifully decorated to my taste, I spend less than two hours a week there to the tune of $865 a month (rent + overdue water + utilities + overdue utilities). Yikes! If I don't get laid off I still plan on dumping the apartment within the next six months. Bye bye hot pink bedroom. I will miss you!

And for regular OMG-I'm-Stuck-On-The-Side-Of-The-Road-With-No-Money emergencies - which would be rare I hope since I don't even have a car - Boyfriend has recently made me an Authorized User on one of his credit cards which is kinda cool since I'm working on paying off my credit card right now and my $30 available credit wouldn't really cover any true emergency. It may even improve my credit score through a concept called piggy-backing.

As for a Health Savings Account, this is no longer my goal because I was confused and thought I needed one when I, in fact, needed to open an Flex Spending Account. Unfortunately I intentionally missed the enrollment deadline for 2009 since there's a pretty good chance I won't be at my office for much of 2009. I guess this will turn out to be a 2010 goal. Doh! Luckily my health insurance is pretty rad and I have very low out-of-pocket costs. And my pharmacist just told me I can save $10 a month by switching to a generic prescription! [BTW: talk to pharmacists, they're not just cashiers who give you meds, they're really smart and helpful!]

Finally, I did not contribute one dime all year to my Roth I.R.A. Last time I looked at it I had about $12 in it. Instead I started contributing 7% of my salary in a 457 Retirement Plan. Despite the fact that I made this decision a month before The Downturn I have accumulated $998 in this account since July. Sweet! My friends think I'm stupid to put money in my 457 instead of a Roth I.R.A. because of the tax advantages but the first rule of investing is Know Thyself and I know that in December of 2007 I dumped my entire $600 in Roth funds to pay for (gasp) Christmas presents. As much as I'd like to think I've grown in 2008, making my retirement funds inacecssible is the best option for me right now.

In the next couple of days I will come up with new financial goals for 2009 that are hopefully more informed and easily attainable.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Taking the Day Off

I recently discovered that if I don't use my remaining personal hours, I'm going to lose them! I know many of you are saying "duh" but I thought I could carry my hours over. I have 19 Personal Hours left.

Sick hours (I have over 60) do carry over into next year as do vacation (I have 39). Who knows if I'm even going to be here next year but if I did get axed I do have some solace in learning that I would get a lump sum vacation payment of an amont equal to my unused vacation hours (which for me would work out to be slightly more than a week's pay).

With this in mind, I promptly put in my notice to take the day off tomorrow! Originally I thought I would spend my personal day at the mall scouting out Christmas presents until I soon realized there's not much at the mall I can buy right now. Instead I think I will clean up a bit and just relax with my cat and my remote control. Ahh...

And I'll still have 12 hours left after tomorrow's fun so maybe I will take next Friday off as well. Except that's the day of our Ghetto Christmas Party. Yes, in the time of Job Insecurity the higher-ups decided to cancel our Christmas Party - which wasn't even an extravagant affair - just a cooler of beer and potluck appetizers. A bunch of the older folks revolted and decided to throw their own (dry) Pizza lunch. It costs $5 - super lame. I can get half a friggen pie for $5!

Anyway, enough ranting. I'm gonna be in my pajamas all day tomorrow - sweet!

A Trip To The Grocery Store

A while back I posted that Boyfriend and I needed a grocery budget. Since then we have been trying to stick to a plan in terms of buying things on sale and in bulk to cut expenses. We also engage in meal planning which is fun and helps us avoid impulse buys at the grocery store. Typically I would say that, excluding beer which can be a real Budget Buster, we spend about $300 a month on groceries. Of that I try to kick in about $100 but I don't always. [Note: Boyfriend if you are reading this correct me if I'm wrong about these numbers because I know you are hooked on Quicken.]

Last night we headed out to the Grocery Store to engage in some big shopping since our fridge was running on empty and I am getting sick of pork chops [Note: one disadvantage to buying in bulk is if your money and food run out you will be eating the same thing every night.] We put into effect our pro-rata grocery contributions and here's how we did:

I bought:

Smart Food Popcorn Snack Pack (on sale) - $3.50
Iceberg Lettuce - $1.99
Gorgonzola Cheese - $3.49
Diet Pepsi Six Pack (2) @ $3.99 + deposit of $0.30
Store Brand Sausage - $3.68
1% Milk Half Gallon - $1.57
Dannon Yogurt Six Pack - $4.99
Grapes 4.18 lbs @ $1.99/lb = $8.32
1 Can Peeled Tomato - $1.79
2 cans tomato Sauce @ $1 each
1 can Crushed Pineapple - $0.99
Macintosh apples 2.46 lbs @ $1.69/lb = $4.16
Something I can't decipher on receipt (2) - $0.99 each
(non-grocery) Wrapping Paper - $0.99

Grand Total (less $5 off coupon) = $45.08 (under Budget!!!)

Boyfriend Bought:

1lb Russets Potatoes - $2.99
Lite Cream Cheese - $2.59
Pepperoni - $3.59
Rye Bread BOGO - $3.29 for two loaves
Pre-grated Low fat Mozzarella Cheese - $4.29
Pizza Dough - $1.79
Granny Smith Apples - 2.08 lbs @$1.29/lb = $2.68
Scallops (about 1.5 pounds) - $6.89
Root Beer - $0.88 plus $0.5 deposit
Chicken Breasts - $10.96
1 lb White American Cheese - $6.11
1/2 lb Honey Ham - $3.74
1/2 Hard Salami - $2.77
Tomata Sauce (2) - $1 each
Crackers - $3.39
Something I can't decipher - $1.00
Big Ass Turkey - $29.70

Grand Total (Less $5 off coupon) = $85.17

So did you notice that we got a Big Ass Turkey? Boyfriend really really wants to cook his own turkey. I didn't get to eat any turkey leftovers this Thanksgiving so I'm down with the plan. Besides the thing is frozen as a rock and can stay in our freezer forever, right? We're having company over on New Year's so maybe that's the way to go.

I consider this shopping mission a success because (not counting the turkey) we spent less than $100 and we have lots of yummy food to eat, including scallops which I've never cooked before. We have lunch meat to last well into next week (especially since Boyfriend is going out of town). And we have easy things I can make myself while he's away (read: chicken breasts). We also have my bottles of soda so I don't fall victim to the vending machine and yogurts so I start the morning off right.

Yay for food. So how do you think we did?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Budget 12/10 - 12/23

Because I didn't plan my gift-giving in advance this year (or any other) I only have a small amount left over for The Holiday That Shall Not Be Named spending. First I gotta pay the bills. So here's where my money is going for the next two weeks:

Starting Balance = 1090 (Boo for overdrafts)

Credit Card - 100
Aunt Sallie Mae - 406
Defaulted Student Loan - 260
Nice Collection Agency - 125
Prescription Co-Pay - 15
Hobby Fee - 35
Shopping - 45+
Groceries - 50

I decided to bite the bullet and pay $100 to my credit card even though I am currently disputing the goddamn late/finance fees they say I owe. This unplanned event means less holiday shopping for me.

Luckily I passed by a Craft Fair today at work and scored some excellent gifts for under $50. I saw another gift that would be excellent for Sister and Brother In Law but decided to hold off until I see how my budget pans out. The show will be going on for a while luckily. And it helps me participate in the Buy Local Pledge which many communities have. By giving my money to local artisans I ensure that most of it stays in the community. Cool!

I'm determined not to get bummed about Christmas presents this year. Every year I put enormous pressure on myself to think of the "perfect" gift for everyone. And I like to find unique and useful things. But really my economic reality is more "it's the thought that counts" kind of presents. I've already gotten things for 6 of the people on my list of 8 which is pretty good considering I've spent so little (okay well I did allow Boyfriend to purchase some nice socks I plan on giving away so maybe that doesn't count).

Since I probably won't be buying anything else during this entire two week period (unless I see something pretty awesome for less than $10) I have to literally be a Christmas Eve Shopper once again this year as December 24th is my next payday. Braving the stores on Christmas Eve when I don't even like going to the stores on a regular day? Awesome.

Where It Went 11/26-12/09

This budgeting period started out pretty great. As I hoped, going home for Thanksgiving was a real money saver, since I was fed and entertained for so long. When I got back into town I decided I had $50 to devote to shopping for The Holiday That Shall Not Be Named. As I've explained earlier, every time I want to buy something online, I have to physically walk to my secondary bank and deposit money. So I did. Here's what happened next in consecutive order:

Monday - deposit money in secondary bank. Realize I have misplaced said debit card. Search and search in vain (note: I suspect it will still be found but since I don't use it that often it is M.I.A.)

Tuesday - continue to search for debit card but then discover the wonders of my infrequently used Paypal account. Purchase $45 worth of presents.

Wednesday - wonder why my $20 payment to my credit card has still not processed through my bank account one week later. Log into my account and discover the credit card company isn't showing my payment and instead is charging me a $35 late fee/finance charge. Wonderful. Email them to see what's up.

Friday - go out of town to see my parents (yet again). Have fun and spend no money.

Sunday - log into my bank account and discover that the group that was running my hobby trip cashed a $15 check they made me write "just in case" they didn't find my earlier payment to them. Since I only had $11 in my account at the time I was hit once again with the Evil Overdraft Monster. I'm still trying to resolve this issue but in the meantime I am out $53 because of their screw-up.

So yeah this budgeting period has sucked and I'm so glad it's over. But here are the numbers so you can see in detail where my money went compared to the Budget I set two weeks ago:

Rent - 725/725
Water - 50/50
Credit Card - 20/0
Sprint - 65/64
Utilities - 105/105
School Loan - 80/80
Presents - 0/45
Misc. ?/100

My other problem was I decided I was too poor/tired to buy groceries when Boyfriend and I were at the store so I only picked up about $10 worth of stuff. What resulted in me buying lunches out (at least four that I can recall) and buying overpriced stuff at the local bodega. I've decided to revisit my old lunctime staple of PB&J for a while to attone for this behavior.

So that's my story. Still no clarification of the future of my employment. Still no Emergency Fund to deal with it. And yes still more presents that need to be purchased. Excuse me for being slightly discouraged.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Club Account - What I Should Have Done

Most responsible PF bloggers have set up lined items in their montly budgets for gift giving, including The Holiday That Shall Not Be Named. I, unfortunately, am not among them. Not yet anyway. I still need to build my Emergency Fund and it is taking an extraordinarly long time. Also, it's kind of hard to think about gift-giving since I'm 50% sure I'm going to lose my job any day now.

Don't worry, I'm not spending a lot of money on Christmas gifts this year....because I, um, don't have much. But had I planned this out in advance I could have started a Christmas Club account with my bank (or manually). By depositing just ten bucks a paycheck at the begining of last year I could have $260 sitting pretty right now to buy gifts for my (slightly) large family and some special friends. Boyfriend had one of these last year and it was a nice end of the year bonus for him.

Since it's too late now and I only have two paychecks left before Christmas (and perhaps...ever) I am just looking for bargains, DIY-ing some gifts, and buying some "it's the thought that counts" items. But next year if (God willing) I still have a job I'm going to set up a Christmas Club account. Has anyone else used them before? It would be good if the bank prevented me from draining it before Christmas but I doubt they do that.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Twilight - Worth the $7?

I had to take a class all day yesterday and I'm on my way to spend another full day in class so not much time to post, but I want some opinions.

Boyfriend and I may go see Twilight this weekend. We have movie coupons so the price won't exceed $7 and we always bring our own candy, but with Christmas presents left unbought, is Twilight worth my cash?

I'm a huge Harry Potter fan and I also love Buffy the Vampire Slayer so I'm pretty sure I'll love it, but will he? Also, I try to read the book before seeing movies based on popular books but alas I haven't gotten around to reading Twilight. From what I've heard, it's right up my alley?

So what do you think....brave the cinema on a Friday night or wait til it's on the Redbox DVD machine at the supermarket?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What Does It Mean to Be 'Rich'?

I should have realized that declaring yourself the descendant of "rich" parents would cause a lot of unrest amongst my readers. I think maybe most of you pictured me growing up so poor I had to share a bowl of slop with my ten brothers and sisters in a one room house. Not so true. But was I rich as I so famously declared in this post? Or, more importantly, are my meddling yet charitable parents rich? I'll let you decide that in a bit.

But first, what if you decided my parents were filthy, old money, Bart Bass on Gossip Girls, rich? What would that mean for me? I have about $100 in my bank account right now to last me until next Wednesday. Hardly enough money to buy a drink at The Plaza. And sure I get a couple of handouts once in a while, but if you are interested in trading a father who gives you a hundred dollars a month versus one who lets you make your own relationship decisions, then give me your address and I'll gladly trade with you.

Yet, I live in a low cost of living area so my salary of $43,600 is well above the median household income for my city - $33,000. But I never feel rich because I am paying off so much debt. If and when I move in officially with Boyfriend, our household income will be over $130,000 and we will be statistically speaking quite rich. We probably won't feel rich then either because we will both be saving and paying off debt.

MSN Money did an article today on how to tell if you are rich. Because of the reaction to my post I tried to see if my parents could officially be categorized as "rich." The closest city listed on the chart was New York City, where the average household income is $240,000. My parents live in a suburb of New York City and I don't know how much their income is. My Dad is self-employed and therefore his income varies greatly from year to year. My Mom's salary is public information, as is mine, and it is about $100,000. They also pay about $25,000 a year in property tax. Rental income brings in about $20,000-$30,000. Hypothetically, let's say they make a combined $350,000 a year. This would only make them "rich" in NYC if they had no kids. Yet they have two living at home.

In short, my parents are well off but not crazy OMG rich. You may think differently if you spend time with them. They like nice things and were delighted to throw my sister a 200 person wedding. They belong to a private club and have hired help clean the house, landscape and do home improvement tasks. Growing up I had nannies, yes nannies, but in my Mother's defense, she was getting her Master's Degree at the time.

Yet I worry about my parent's finances. They have taken a huge hit in their retirement accounts with only five years to go before retirement. My little sister is expected to start college in a year and a half and we never qualify for financial aid. Most of my parents' wealth is tied up in real estate that is declining in value and they have expressed no desire to ever leave our mammoth house behind.

Bottom line, no matter how much money my parents have, I'm just as poor as a church mouse and though my Dad is paying $303 a month now towards one of my student loans, there's no chance I will get a $50,000 windfall like Her over at Make Love Not Debt towards paying back my loans. But stick with me and I will pay back my student loans (largely) by myself. Probably then I'll have to start a new blog about how "rich" I am.

What about you guys? Anyone else rich on paper but not in reality?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Free Christmas Cards!

I got five free Christmas cards in the mail yesterday. I have never sent Christmas cards - as strange as that sounds - because I see almost all of my family over the holidays. I guess you're still supposed to send a card before the holidays but I never do. I don't get that many either. I think the only relative that sends mail addressed to my current apartment is my grandfather.

But since I no longer live at "home" and I'm no longer a student I guess I should send out these cards to the relatives that I don't see on Christmas. (Note: I should probably send them to all my relatives but hey it's only five cards). But maybe I'll pick up some more as I also recieved 18 free holiday-themed address labels.

The cards and labels came from a charity that I don't particuarly have an interest in supporting but it was a good way to get my attention. I won't be donating any money this year to that particular charity but earlier I had decided to incorpoate charitable giving into my Christmas gifts this year. I'll be sharing some ideas later on for inexpensive yet meaningful gifts.

The cost of sending these five cards = $2.10.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving in a Recession: The Redux

Confession: my parents are pretty rich. Not in a "everyone that lives in America is richer than most of the world" rich but "holy crap, that's your house?" rich. For those of you that have been reading this blog for a while you may have already guessed that. Why else would my Dad constantly give me small sums of money so that he could continue to pass judgment on my life? How did I get so awful with money in the first place and end up in this mess? I don't think growing up I ever felt "rich," however, since I was surrounded by equally if not richer folk.

So with that important piece of background information, I bring you my Thanksgiving holiday redux. Boyfriend and I spent our first Thanksgiving together (last year we were dating but he was out of the country). Miles were driven, cats were traumatized, a ten year high school reunion was attended, and the George Washington Bridge was crossed three times in as many days.

This Thanksgiving was the first time I didn't spend the entire holiday with my own family and therefore the first time I realized just how different the holiday can be with other families. As embarrassing as it sounds, I grew incredibly homesick when I realized that there were no mini-quiches, linen napkins, chandeliers and mulled cider. Instead I was treated to folding chairs and homemade pie. Boyfriend and I even went out for dinner on Wednesday with his parents and they made him split the bill! That sort of thing would never happen in my family.

After visiting Boyfriend's parents we visited my family and learned that talking about money is now apparently allowed despite its previous ban in polite conversation. Here is what I learned:

  • My mom claims to have lost "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in her retirement accounts. I asked her if she was exaggerating but she insisted she wasn't.
  • My sister and her new husband are leaving NYC to live in the suburbs in an apartment owned by my parents for next to nothing. This is quite possibly the only financially responsible move my sister has ever made.
  • A friend (age 30) was laid off from her job in the financial sector.
  • Another friend (age 31) was laid off from her dot com job, despite spending $35k to get pregnant (it worked!) and now is forced to put her apartment on the market.
  • A friend's mother who works for the financial industry has stored $10,000 under her mattress in case of emergencies. This is no joke. She's the richest woman I know and if she's this scared then holy crap!
  • My brother works retail and unfortunately they are cutting his hours.
So lots of financial gossip was shared over the course of a few days. Being with my family is great and I love them very much but they're very much into proper form and etiquette and I feel bad that Boyfriend has to be on his best behavior around them. They're also quite arrogant - my Dad bragging that while he read somewhere that the average family spends $40 on Thanksgiving dinner, my mother spent $400.

That was my Thanksgiving. My parents warned it would be a "lean Christmas" but I don't believe them. I don't need any presents but I can't imagine my mom not buying tons of things anyway. Sigh.

Help Forest on Finance Propose!

Hey everyone, I'm back from Thanksgiving! Hope you all had excellent holidays and get ready for a whopper of a post detailing mine.

But in the meantime, help fellow PF blogger Forest on Finance propose to his girlfriend, Bird.

I'm new to his blog so I don't know how he managed to have a personal finance blog without his girlfriend knowing about it (yikes!) but he has put up some questions to his readers about ring shopping.

He's not really sure what she likes but doesn't want to spoil the surprise by taking her ring shopping. Head on over to this post and tell him your suggestions!

And to avoid this same problem happening to Boyfriend, here's a huge hint about what kind of ring I like (haha).