Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My countless attempts to save money on food

Dinner last night was FANTASTIC. The company of my great aunt and uncle is unmatched by most people and I'm so lucky to have the chance to get to know them at this stage in life. We ate at Red Rocks in Charlotte and man was it delicious! I had an outstanding meal of steak, mashed potatoes, green beens (yes, I ate them!) and onion rings-really random topping on the steak I thought but no complaints here! The meal ended with an awesome slice of red velvet cake...mmmmm! Can I tell you how excited I am for my lunch of leftovers? Man, I was sure spoiled! I'm really hoping I can see them on a more regular basis since we're so close. We plan on getting together to play tennis soon and I'm looking forward to it!

Anyway, my meals lately have either been from restaurants or left overs from those meals. A friend took me to dinner last week (he had a gift card :) ), KP and I ordered food over the weekend, and then last night's meal. I can't get that lucky all the time so I need to start meal planning a little better. We have a little cafe in our office that has a great variety of breakfast and lunch foods but that can add up quickly.

I'm always on the hunt for new recipes and meals that would be easy to take to work. Especially on the days I work both jobs, it's essential I bring my meals to save money. My goal this afternoon is to find some new, easy, inexpensive recipes to spice up my cookbook. I've also started bringing a box of cereal and milk to work for my breakfasts in the morning. It's not as great as the eggs, toast and bacon I get from Louis at the cafe but it's much cheaper. I'm almost already out of my Apple Jacks so it's time to pick a new cereal...any votes?

I'm grocery shopping tomorrow night (and FINALLY getting my oil changed!) so I'll let you know what I come up with!

PS-1 month til I see my mom and sister in Albuquerque!! Time to request off another weekend of work!

Monday, August 30, 2010

So that's what relaxing feels like?

I find it very rare when I choose doing nothing over being social, especially being the new girl in town. Well this past weekend, I did just that and it was pretty fantastic. KP came to town so it was the perfect combo of good company and laziness. Rather than going to a Knights game, we relaxed in my living room and managed to keep ourselves entertained with scratch off cards the grocery store gives away with purchases. Friday I worked a half day and we relaxed by the pool all afternoon. A few errands were run but overall, very low key day. We tried to socialize Friday night but we ended up staying at a friend's house playing card games and watching Eddie Murphy stand-up comedy.

Saturday we managed to feel exhausted so we spent the morning watching a movie/napping. We eventually ventured downtown Charlotte on a mission for the Pita Pit. There was one on campus when we were freshmen/sophomores but it closed and we were devastated. It turns out their website says there is one in both Raleigh and Charlotte so it's been our mission to go. We didn't quite make it there when I visited in Raleigh (long story but worth it) so we were determined to go to the Charlotte location. We followed my trusty GPS Jack downtown, found a fantastic parking spot but Pita Pit was nowhere to be found. Anywhere. After a call to 4-1-1, it turns out there is no such thing as a Pita Pit in Charlotte. What a let down. We settled for Qdoba, which apparently was a bad choice. We felt disgusting for a long while after-entirely Pita Pit's fault. We hit up the mall on the way home. Got my extra discount at Express and bought: two tops and a dress. I am probably returning one top and the dress because realistically, I shouldn't have spent my money. They're both really cute but I don't need either of them. Being smart financially sucks :(

Anyway, once we arrived back to my humble abode, we sat on the couch feeling like crap for a solid hour. We were supposed to go out with a group of friends but that didn't sound appealing to either of us. We opted to pull my mattress into the living room and watch movies on TV all night. We ordered Olive Garden to-go and cuddled in our PJ's all night. It was pretty fantastic. Luckily for us, some great movies were on! KP had never seen "Remember the Titans" and conveniently one good movie was on after another. The $13 I spent on dinner was a MUCH cheaper option than going out that night anyway. Apparently the group we were supposed to meet up with was out until 6am!

KP left Sunday morning and I lounged at the pool all morning/afternoon with a book and a delicious McCafe iced mocha :) (KP and I got a BOGO coupon!) I was invited to a fish fry for dinner (I love when my friends have fish fries because it's just like home to me (and I don't have to cook!)). So I did socialize finally but I have no regrets about being such a homebody this weekend. It was much needed and maybe I'll do this more often!

I kicked off my Monday with a $1 Sausage Egg McMuffin from McDonalds thanks to a coupon and I had left over Olive Garden for lunch-YUM! I'm going out to dinner with my great aunt and uncle tonight and I'm really looking forward to seeing them again! Wednesday is payday and it's coming at a perfect time! It's less than normal since I was out sick last week but it should be enough for me to make it work.

I updated my budget after this weekend and the rest of last week. I'm still staying afloat and I've managed to pay off my credit card bill in full this month. I have a tough balance for next month but my most recent payment already put a minor dent in it so hopefully I can conquer it and quit this bad cycle of mine. Unfortunately I didn't work at Express this past weekend and I have next weekend off too so that will hurt big time. I really need to start saving for these loan payments coming up so I need to get my act together asap. I know I keep saying this but I really do plan on being more strict with myself financially and finding ways to save money on necessities and cutting back on my "wants".

Friday, August 27, 2010

Happy Weekend!

I feel like my weekend started last night...but it didn't :( My old roommate from MN, I'll call her KP, just moved to Raleigh so she made the trek to come visit for the weekend. She came last night so we could go to the Knight's baseball game but that never happened. When girls get to eating and talking, baseball just doesn't seem as important, right? We decided we'd save our $7 tickets and $1 beers for another time.

I did have to get up for work today but I'm done at noon. We have some serious plans to lay by the pool and relax all afternoon and I couldn't be more excited! I have no idea what the rest of the weekend has in store but if it's anything like when I visited her in Raleigh a month ago, we're bound to have some good stories.

Unfortunately I didn't set aside any money for fun things this weekend. It is payday from Express and I do have two babysitting checks to cash so I'll be alright but I really need to buckle down and get more strict with my social life. It's hard to balance the desire to go out, meet people and make new friends but also having to save my pennies. Hopefully I can figure that out soon but I can't imagine what the solution would be-besides cut back on being social :( No one wants to do that when they're the new girl so maybe I can get creative.

Pictures coming soon of my living room, which now includes a bookshelf and a coffee table! It looks a little more grown up in there and much more "homey". They were both inexpensive and I plan to spice them both up a little by painting some of my favorite quotes on them- yup, when I'm on my own I whip out the arts and crafts. I'm not claiming to be Martha Stewart or anything but I have pretty high hopes of how awesome my furniture is going to look. Also, my boss gave me an old dresser when I moved into my apartment. My plan for the near future is to sand it, give it fresh paint and get new knobs. I may also get some new lamp shades for some REAL old lamps my boss gave me. Really inexpensive ways to spice up your home and inexpensive projects to keep me busy :)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Budget Update

Happy Sunday everyone! I hope your weekend has been as relaxing as mine has. I had a casual night out Friday, babysat and relaxed Saturday and so far today I slept in, made a yummy breakfast (minus the sausage-undercooked I think) and updated my budget. Now Father of the Bride I and II are on so I'm a happy camper :) -these are happy tears I swear...

Anyway, when I say I updated my budget, that's the same as balancing my checkbook electronically. It had definitely been a while and I wasn't quite sure how much damage I had been doing the past week or two. There were a few purchases that definitely weren't necessary but for the most part I'm above water. I have plenty of money for gas, enough food to last until next week, not a ton of allowance but I will try to make due, and enough for the oil change I'm due for.

My mom was nice enough to let me use my phone, car insurance and health insurance payments to put towards my credit card so I should have my bill paid off with no interest. Should.

I've also done the math on my loan payments that will be due in December. Here's the breakdown for the minimum payments of all 4 loans (yes, that means I would be 42 by the time they're paid off!!): $38.83, $107.97, $167.79 and $172.05. Woof. That's $486.64/month until I'm 42!!! No thanks. I definitely plan on doing the snowball effect so I'd put more than $38.83 towards that loan so once it's paid off, that money can be put towards the next smallest loan etc. At the moment I don't make enough at Express to have $486.64 or more a month so I'll have to figure something out. My plan is to start building up a savings so I can have more to work with but that will run out after a few payments I'm sure.

I have been flirting with the idea of getting a puppy. It's lonely living alone in a new city, especially right after a break up. My friend has one and it's just the cutest thing ever! I'm not home enough and they are expensive but I can't give up the idea of having some company around here. I told the boys I was babysitting that I wanted a puppy and here was Johnny's solution:
He made me a paper dog :)
That will have to do for now. It's quiet, low maintenance and free. Now if could only be as cuddly as a real puppy, it would be perfect. 

Now that I've figured out how to put pictures with my blog (yes, I'm that slow to learn, but I also needed a memory card adapter that I hadn't had until now), I will leave you with a picture of a project I worked on last night that I just love! It was a whopping $6.99 and makes my bedroom my favorite place in the apartment now-and I don't even have tv or internet in there!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dating Discoveries

In recent years, my sister has taught me that dating is a great way to save money because "the guys pay for everything". When you're in a relationship, that quickly fades so I never really took advantage of the perks of casual dating. Now that I'm single however, my sister is right (that may be the first time I've ever given her credit for being right!)

I've gotten some delicious free dinners, gone to a free concert and gotten a handful of free drinks. Not too shabby. It's definitely never my intention for them to pay (I do usually offer) and that's definitely not the reason I go out, it's just a nice perk that I've never discovered before.

On the other hand, being single means I go out more with friends. As a result I've spent more money than normal on dinners, drinks etc. I haven't updated my budget in a little while and honestly, I'm afraid to. I know it can't be THAT bad since I just got paid on Wednesday, but I'm sure it's not going to be impressive.

This weekend has no major plans in the works besides babysitting Saturday and working Sunday so maybe I'll force myself to sit down and balance the budget. Maybe. I know I should and I'm sure I will, just not exactly excited for it. Not to mention my stupid credit card bill that will have more than $3.84 in interest next month added to it. Crap.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Good Morning Charlotte!

Good morning! For whatever reason I've been up since before dawn wide awake and ready to start the day! I haven't even needed coffee yet!

I have two stories about yesterday:

1) Yesterday was PB&J day. All day. I woke up a little late so rather than packing breakfast, lunch and dinner, I grabbed a loaf of bread, my jelly and peanut butter and off I went. I had a sandwich for breakfast, lunch and dinner! It actually worked out quite nicely and I'm having it again for lunch (and maybe dinner) today. I go straight to babysitting after work today and I'll probably eat with the family but its kind of a hike to get there so I'm sure I'll grab a sandwich for the road. I'm definitely excited to babysit today! It's only for a short 3 hours but I'll make the same amount as a night at Express so fine with me.

2) Target and I are in a love-hate relationship. Remember how I told y'all I was going to hide my credit card? Well I hadn't quite yet and I got an e-mail from Target about all this great college/apartment stuff on sale. Although none of you have seen my apartment, it's not very warm and welcoming just yet. There is minimal decoration, lighting, my sheets are thin and my comforter is filthy beyond repair. I want to be able to have my new friends over and actually have them think I don't live in a dump. Since I had some time to kill between jobs yesterday, I decided to stop by to see if there was anything worth buying. Surprise, surprise, there definitely was plenty. I got two more chairs for my dining room table, a new comforter and sheets (super cute and on sale!), a lamp and a picture frame collage for wall decoration. I swear my credit card is now hiding in a safe place and will not be coming out to play for a long time! There are a few more things I would love to have, which sadly I have most of back in MN but I don't know when or how I will get those things any time soon.

Thank God Tomorrow Is Friday!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Great news!

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I've been concerned about not being able to pay my credit card bill in full this month. That's never happened to me before and I was terrified to see how much interest I would be charged for not paying it all. I paid most of it and sadly my bill somehow is still pretty high this month again BUT interest was only $3.38!! I think I can handle that! Now, I know what you're thinking- Great, she's going to see how little that amount is and not worry about it for future months. Well, you're wrong. It will always be my goal to pay it off in full because I refuse to fall into the downward spiral that is credit card debt. However, its nice to know that I won't totally dive head first into the poor house after that statement.

I'm still having a hard time leaving my credit card at home to avoid unnecessary purchases but I think it's what I'll have to start doing. My express paychecks are supposed to go towards savings/student loan payments, not credit card payments and that needs to stop. As of today, I will keep it hidden in my apartment and only used in emergencies. From here on out I will get my bill under control and keep it that way. Then I can really dive into the savings for when the student loan bills come rolling in. I just can't contain my excitement for that...

**I just looked at my statement more closely and I paid all of my bill but $4. I got charged almost $1 in interest per dollar I didn't pay off. Although this time the number wasnt high, that is huge motivation to not do that again!**

I mentioned in a recent post that I was going to shop at Express this weekend. I did. And I made it out literally spending the $6 I planned to spend and not a dime more. I got the tank top and earings I mentioned but someone had taken the shorts I had put on hold. That's actually a good thing since they had gone on clearance and my coupon wouldn't have worked on them anyway. I did, however, find a $6 belt that I couldn't pass up. The coupon was worth $45 but the tank top and earings were only $41. I'm pretty impressed. You'll also be happy to hear that I debated buying a sweater the next day. All through my shift I just kept eyeing it and daydreaming about all these cute outfits that sweater would complete. I was good and didn't buy it because they didnt have my size because I didn't need it. When I was getting ready for work this morning, I realized I had a pretty similar sweater already and I'm happy I didn't buy it. I know its common sense to everyone but I'm proud I reached that conclusion all on my own.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Grrreat timing

So starting a few weeks ago, I would get a call from one of my student loan companies with an automated message asking me to call a number concerning my loan. Here's the thing, they would call at the strangest times when I didn't have a pen on me and I couldn't remember it exactly. Finally they called when I wasn't near my phone so they left a voicemail and I could finally get the right number. I called them today and although I knew this day was coming, I always kind of hoped it never would-maybe a mistake in the paperwork or an oversight and poof, my loan just wouldn't exist anymore :) If only.

Anyway once I finally got someone on the other line, they merely wanted to inform me that my loan payments will start being due as of Dec. 14th. Right before Christmas. Great. Sorry everyone, looks like there will be no purchased Christmas presents for anyone this year. I am going to start now to get creative and think of ideas that I can make for free or maybe two pennies per gift. I asked him how much my payments will be and of course he couldn't tell me an exact number. Of course. I will just get a bill 30-45 days before its due and then be forced to scramble to get the money for it. Super cool.

So after we hung up I did a little research. I found a loan calculator that determines how much interest I've accrued since I've taken out the loan and since its been in deferment. It's a $20,000 loan and by Dec. the interest will be up to $2476.39. That said I found a different loan calculator to see how much per month I will have to pay for 15 or 20 years. 15 years is $198.90 and 20 years is $170.90. Sweet. I'm so super excited for that. I'll be 50 by the time these loans are paid off! Crap. Not exactly how I pictured the next 20 years of my life but maybe I'll just strike it rich and be fine...haha...yeah right.

I'm dreading hearing from Sallie Mae to get the same message, even though I have an idea that those payments will be starting in Nov. Super fun.

Looks like I have even more motivation to spend less of my allowance or at least definitely not use more than I have allotted myself. I did decide that I'm going to the library after work to get some free entertainment when I'm not working these next two weeks. I think I'll stay in with a movie tomorrow night, which, besides the cost of Netflix, is free.

On another note, I've been trying to close my checking and savings accounts that I still have in MN. I wasn't able to close those accounts when I was home because I still had direct deposit payments coming from my old jobs. So I called the bank to see what I had to do to close it from here and they said to send a letter with all the info. I did. They called saying it had to be notarized. So I sent the letter to my mom to have her boss notarize it and drop it off at the bank. Apparently that's not the solution either. I need to send them the letter myself with my home address because they can't transfer the funds like they said they could, they have to send me a check instead. Sweet. So I have money just sitting around doing nothing and I have to jump through so many hoops to get access to it. Frustrating.

Happy Thursday!

Good morning! Finally a morning where things are going right. Earlier in the week I woke up one day to my plants dead, mold in my coffee pot and I almost got hit by a truck. The next day I woke up to a song on the radio about Brett Favre (which I detest!) but TODAY I woke up on the right side of the bed, had a fabulous Jack in the Box breakfast (who knew their pita sandwich with ham, egg and bacon would be so delicious) and a great meeting at work. That's a sign that this week end on a much better note.

Anyway, Wednesday was payday. It turns out that on a bi-weekly schedule, I have roughly $791 in expenses without any savings or loan payments (UGH! Don't remind me!). My paycheck was not that much this week since I left early Friday to go to Raleigh and left early a few days to go to Express. Anyways, this means my allowance is not as much as it should be. Let's see how far I can stretch it! I have $78 for the next two weeks and honestly I don't have much planned besides working so maybe that will be an easy accomplishment. Maybe. I just need to do better about making meals for my lunches and dinners - I was a big slacker this week since I was gone all weekend and worked both jobs Mon-Wed- but I should have more time this weekend to be more prepared. Plus my food fund has been filled so I can easily go shopping and make a few meals. I'm kind of excited :)

On another note, we get our extra discount at Express this weekend. I have a $45 free coupon as a reward from my Express card so I'm thinking I won't have to pay much if any of my own money to get a few things. Here are the things I want:
Shorts
Cute top
Earings-I can't find them on the website but they're cute and practical I swear.

With the discount it would total $51. Since I have the $45 card, those three items would cost me $6. Ummm...awesome! I love when I can shop and still be smart. I'll keep you posted on how the purchase really goes.

Tonight I'm going to a Knights game. It's the minor league baseball team around here and I'm pretty excited. Tickets are only $7 and it's Thirsty Thursday so all beverages are $1! Sounds like a pretty stellar time.

Hope everyone is having a great day!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I'm Back!...again!

I've been on a hiatus for a while and life has been a little bit nuts to say the least. First of all, MG is no longer "my guy" and I've entered the single world. It's a long story and one that has nothing to do with my financial situation so I'll save it for another time and another place. It's been about two weeks and it's definitely been an interesting/foreign experience so far.

Not a whole lot has been happening financially. I've been working to put every bit of extra money I have towards my credit card to avoid as much interest as I can. I know I won't be able to make the full payment but I'm only about $50 short. Of course there have been a few new charges in this past month so I will have to keep working to pay that off too but I'm trying to be good. I don't want to go on and on about the expenses I've had in the past few weeks but it's nothing too major. I did spend a weekend in Raleigh visiting one of my old roommates who just moved there. Although we had free places to stay and did get a few free drinks, I spent more than I should have at the mall (I did get the greatest $5 aviators though!) and at dinner both nights but I definitely don't and won't have weekends like that often.

I did finally get my first cable/internet bill on Saturday. At first I freaked out because I thought they had all these extra charges on there and the bill was MUCH higher than I expected. THEN I finally realized that they had charged me for the months of July and August since the bill is normally due at the beginning of the month but they hadn't charged me for July yet. So it made sense. Bye bye $150. Luckily I was smart and made sure to always add to my utilities fund to make sure I had enough. I still don't know what my utility bill will be and I'd rather be prepared than scrambling to pay it. I currently have $50 left in my utility fund and I get paid tomorrow so another $75 will be added. I sure hope my utilities aren't $125 since I keep the air off as much as possible, turn all electronics off or unplugged as much as possible and I don't waste water. I really have no idea what to expect but I'm eager to find out just so I can make my budget more accurate.

Things at work are going well but it's taking much longer for the site to launch than expected. I honestly don't know if I will have this job a month from now, meaning who knows if I can even make the rent, not to mention the student loans that are lingering in the back of my mind. I start payments in November and couldn't be less prepared. CRAP. Definitely not a comforting feeling.

So for now I will work both jobs and babysit as much as I can and pray that I make it through. As I typed this I even got an e-mail from someone interested in me babysitting so cross your fingers for me!