Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I couldnt resist...

Last night I was a victim of strategic marketing. I went to the gym with every intention of just learning about prices so I know for future reference and to get a free workout in. I left with a membership and a great workout. Their normal registration fee is $299. If you signed up on your first visit, they knock off $100. And with my employee discount, they knock of another $150! Hot damn! How could I pass that up? The workout classes I took alone are worth the $20 monthly membership for sure and now I can really improve my running and shed these extra pounds.

I know it may not have been the smartest purchase I've ever made since I do have workout DVDs and it's getting nice out so I can run outside. I get it. But the damage is done. More motivation to get that 2nd job and more motivation to really get all my money's worth at this gym! If it gets REALLY bad, they have showers at the gym so I can at least save money on my water bill...mostly kidding. At least my sore body is overriding my guilt. That class really kicked my butt (and legs and abs!) last night!

I even made a workout buddy. I was wearing a MN t-shirt and when we got partners for an ab workout, she commented that her parents live in MN-in the town next to where I grew up and my parents still live!! Small freakin world! Anyway, being new to NYC, I'm always up for meeting new people and that was part of my goal of the gym. I didn't realize it would pay off within the first visit! We're going to Monday's sculpting class and I'm definitely excited!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Haaave you met Ham Sandwich?

If you watch How I Met Your Mother, think of Barney being a wing-man for the ham sandwich picking me up.

My Paint skills suck...ignore me.

Why? Because that is my lunch of the week. Pretty basic but inexpensive. This week's lunches cost $8 for a small bottle of light mayo, a loaf of bread (I splurged on Oat Nut bread because it's supposedly bad enough I eat carbs, plain white bread is just empty carbs), and a box of sandwich meat. That's much better than last week's $20ish for tortellini (and it takes no prep time).

Unfortunately that is the excitement of my week financially so far. I was working on my budget and while distributing my upcoming paycheck into each of the necessity funds (paying loans, credit cards, train ticket, etc.) I realized I'm going to have to stretch my money muuuuuuuch further than I planned. While commuting, I can afford everything and put a little into savings. But then I realized I still had to factor in rent...very expensive rent. So I started to cut back how much I put into all my other funds...hence my $8 week of lunches. I have also started the hunt for a second evening/weekend job. Just when I thought I was finished job hunting, it comes back to haunt me. Unfortunate but absolutely necessary right now.

My co-worker told me abut the gym she goes to which is only $20 a month with classes, great machines etc. I'm going to try their free trial membership tonight and apparently there is a discount for employees of my company so maybe that will make it worth it. However, $20 is still a lot of money for me right now so I can't officially sign up until I have that second job in hand. Lame. We'll see how it goes, I guess.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's all about the "free"

In addition to all the free food I've been scarfing, I've managed to get some other great bargains today.

If you're trying to save money, follow the Frugal Girls. I get their e-mails daily and sometimes they have some pretty great coupons, like today. I saw a post for free Bath and Body Works lotion, who doesn't want that? And fortunately there was a location on my walk to the train station so I stopped by and got a small bottle of their new "Country Chic" lotion for FREE! That curbed my shopping craving a little bit at least! And it's the perfect size to throw in your purse for a commute/summer time.

I also joined a blogger book club  that starts next week. Our first book is The Last Lecture and although I've read it, it's such a great book worthy of a re-read. So worthy that I even considered buying it but I won't be purchasing a book for approximately 2.5 years with this budget I'm on. However, it pays to have friends who work in the book world because they can help you out and support your book club experience. My copy should arrive Monday!

In additional awesome news, I found my train pass! Sure enough, I had thrown it away. However my laziness worked to my benefit because I hadn't taken the trash out yet and fortunately it wasn't too messy to dig through. Saved me $85 plus a week's worth of paying full price each day! WHEW!

My bank accounts and myself are pretty pleased with me today. Time to put this sleepy body to bed!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Free food tastes better

I don't make a lot of money at my new job. It's no secret. But my company sure does help me save money on food. I rushed out the door this morning without grabbing my breakfast or packed lunch (or even coffee!!) so it worked out perfectly to snag a bagel and coffee for breakfast and some free pizza and salad for lunch instead of going out to eat. Plus, I was starting to get sick of eating tortellini after 4 days straight.

I'm staying out of the city this weekend but I am taking my God Mother's daughter aka the girl I used to nanny (what does that make me to her? anything?) to get her nails done for her b-day present. I also have a trip to Yale on Sunday for a Jodi Picoult book signing. Her most recent book, "Sing You Home", is awesome! Just finished it this morning, so I'm really looking forward to meeting her. I need to start thinking about a meal to pack for next week too and shop for it. Sandwiches maybe?

One unfortunate aspect of this weekend will be tearing my room apart trying to find my weekly train pass for next week. It came in a separate envelope than the past two weeks and now it's missing. Please hope and pray I find that bad boy!

I'm doing alright financially, at least as far as keeping up with my bills goes. I bought my April train pass yesterday (which turned out to be $268 instead of $318-awesome!) and I've paid off Sallie Mae and both credit cards for April already. X set up an excel spreadsheet with this really nifty budget so I need to start using it. I need to come up with a specific game plan for each paycheck now that I have a more regular schedule.

Today is payday for my part-time job, so I've set that aside for a little trip to Philly that's coming up in two weeks! One of my MN BFFs is meeting us there and I am SO excited to see her! The awesome thing about Philly is that so many of the sites are free to see. Game Piece Park, the Rocky Steps, the LOVE Fountain etc.

Anyway, that's my quick update for the week. Hopefully I have more exciting or even regular posts coming soon. Have a great weekend!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Payday!

As it turns out, my place of employment is on a "current pay" schedule, meaning you get paid immediately for the work you do. I didn't realize this until Friday when they handed me a paycheck for my first week. Sweet! It felt great to see some money coming in and I can finally start a normal, regular budget.

That said, the money will all be gone pretty quickly. Between loan payments and having to buy my monthly train pass ($318!), my bank account will go back to being sad. I did put $500 into a savings account from my tax return but my goal is to actually keep it here. We'll see how realistic that is.

In preparation for the week, I went to the grocery store to make a meal to bring for lunches. I bought what I needed to make tortellini with meat sauce with a side of broccoli, plus apples that I eat for breakfast, all for $22. Considering meals in New York are hard to find under $8 minimum, that saves me at least $18. If you add that up over 52 weeks, that's almost $1000 in savings! Totally worth it.

Anyway, this is just random, probably because I'm sleep deprived after a week of early wake up calls and a late night out last night. Sleepy time!

Friday, March 18, 2011

I survived

I survived (and thrived at) my first week at the new job! It's been a great week here and I can't wait to keep coming back. With the new schedule, I've been pretty swamped so I'll give you a quick post on my lunch break.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have a few more tips on saving money while working (yes, being a professional does cost money, even though you probably only focus on the fact that you're earning money). You have to have nice clothes, you have to prepare meals on the go, transportation, etc.

  • Clearance sections are fantastic in general, unless you need something very specific. If you wear dresses and tights to work (I do), you can always check out the clearance section of Target for tights. I found a couple of great pairs in a variety of colors for $1.98 each. Much, much cheaper than the $5-10 (at least) pairs.
  • Take advantage of all things free. This week, work had two free pizza days in honor of March Madness. Even if it was less appealing food, hello, free lunch! Do it! Also, every Friday they serve a spread of breakfast foods in the cafeteria. I'm normally pretty cheap with my breakfasts but hey, this saves me food and time.
  • If you decide to purchase a "thermos" like mine, aka the $5 stainless Steele water bottle, and you're afraid to drink hot coffee from it on your commute because it's tall and if you tilt it too far and the train jolts simultaneously, you have hot coffee all over your work clothes that you will be in for hours and hours, use a straw. When I had this fear on my first morning, I thought "crap, I should have bought a real thermos for more money with a normal drinking hole". But ah, ha! A straw is such a simple solution, however unconventional it may seem.
That's all for now. Gotta finish up some work and I'm heading out for the weekend on this beautiful Friday! 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Livin the dream

So what do you do when your biggest life goal since middle school comes true at 22? I guess I'm about to find out, huh? All I know is it sure will include being really smart, creative and savvy with my money!

I love love love my new job and I'm even starting to love the 6am commute. The only thing I don't love is how freakin expensive NYC is! By the time I head home, I'm starving so Tuesday I tried to grab a snack at Grand Central. Epic fail. Any small snack is $5 at least. Sorry but that's not going to fly on my budget. That night I went to A&P and got some mid-morning and afternoon snacks instead (string cheese, tiny cheese wheels, chocolate covered almonds, protein/energy bars etc.) and it's made a world of difference!

Time for work but more to come on how to work on a budget :)

Happy St. Patty's Day everyone!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Welcome to the working world

So this is what it's like, huh? Waking up and seeing black, the same color you fell asleep to. Hmmm...foreign concept for me lately but so far so good. It was a good run unemployment but it's time that we break up and I quit back-and-forth relationships in high school so take that as a hint that I don't want you back.

For those of you who were sad to have your last First Day of School, like I was, wait until you get a new job. It's the same thing but this time a paycheck is involved. My mom even "jokingly" hinted my aunt and uncle should take my picture on the front steps. Too bad my camera is out of batteries ;)

Day 1-I'm coming for you! I did all I could to ward off this crappy illness I've been fighting-still not gone but manageable, I have all my commuter stuff ready to go and my super awesome uncle is being so nice and driving me to the train station.

Here goes nothing!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Good News & Bad News

I'll start with the good news: My $1.84 umbrella works. I put it to good use today and it functioned just fine, even in the wind when another umbrella was inverted and useless. As long as it works, I don't care that there are 5-year-old looking butterflies on it. It's colorful at least.

The bad news: I put my umbrella to good use while I walked into the doctor's office today (had to park far away). I woke up achy with a very sore throat only on the right side and I winced every time I swallowed. Normally I'd tough it out but since I start work on Monday, there is NO way I could risk being sick and had to kick whatever this is pronto.

I'm happy to report I only have a few more days left of this current insurance (although I'm thankful to have any!) because it cost me $50 to get a throat swab for strep (I'll find out results tomorrow) and for the doctor to acknowledge that I do indeed have a very swollen gland and she's sure it hurts. If I have a virus, it hasn't shown up yet so "come back if it gets worse". Sweet.

I took some Excedrin to reduce the pain when swallowing and I've been cranking out some work ever since. I was looking forward to stopping work at 10 and watch a new Grey's Anatomy but I read the schedule wrong and it's not new. I'll go enjoy the sound of rain, rest up and watch some quality Jersey Shore instead.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Thermos Test

Yesterday at Target I bought a $5 thermos to use for my morning coffee/water bottle for my new commute. I worried that because it was so cheap, it might be a waste of money so today I decided to test it out at home.
please ignore my chubby cheeks

It's pink, cute and lightweight. It held my coffee well today so it's a keeper. It kept my hands warm but wasn't too hot. The opening is big enough to fit a big spoon to stir in sugar and creamer as well as ice for when I finally switched to water.

I'm so glad I thought inexpensively and saved a decent $25 on a thermos even cuter than the big, thick and plain black one. Score.

Let's hope my $1.84 umbrella is just as awesome. Looks like I can test that out tomorrow with the serious rain we're expected to get.

Workouts on a budget

I have been saying that when I get a job I'll be able to join a gym. Clearly I was in fantasy land. After taxes and benefits get taken out of my check and after all the minimum necessities are accounted for, I won't have two dimes to rub together, let alone at least 500 dimes for a gym membership.

I have been doing Jillian Michaels workout DVDs and they are tough (and once you buy the $10 DVDs and weights, it's always free to use)!

The only thing I'm missing out on is running/walking. I love the idea of meeting new people and it's more motivating to be at a gym than to just walk outside (at least for me). There are not great running paths (or even sidewalks in parts) in my neighborhood so it's hard for me to feel comfortable going for a run outside. But it doesn't pay to buy a membership mostly for the treadmill. 

So in the name of saving money, I'm going to stick to Jillian and suck it up outside. When I move to NYC, there are sidewalks literally everywhere so I'll hopefully take better advantage of that. And if this apartment I am really interested in works out, I'll have access to their gym anyway.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Target Trip

I love Target. My waistline now loves target too. I was worried about fitting into my work pants after a recent weight gain so while I went to get my commuter merchandise, I strolled through the clearance section of clothes. Did I hit the jackpot or what?!

I found 5 dresses that are similar in style, very professional and flattering/forgiving for $12 each! This is one of them, and at the location I was at, the price really was $12.98-not that online price. No. Way. I decided to buy them all, try them on for my aunt and let her help me decide if I should return any with that great deal. I tried to find the rest online to show you but they weren't on the website...although now that I looked there are many others on clearance that look awesome as well. These dresses would give me a great alternative to sucking in my gut all day everyday.

I also found comfortable/professional shoes and of course Target shoes are reasonably priced. Bargain!

I also found an umbrella on clearance for $1.84 amongst all the bigger $12/$16 umbrellas. I'm slightly embarassed because it has butterflies on it but it's really not that bad (probably why it was on clearance) so I'll chalk it up to another score!

I saw some thermoses for $30. They're kidding right? Mine was $5, pink and will easily work for both coffee and regular water. Plus it has a nice clasp I can attach it to my bag and not worry about it taking up space.

A fresh start

Now that I have a job and am able to start budgeting again (whew! I hate non-budget life! Actually it was pretty nice but I'm much smarter with money when I have a budget), I will give you an update of where I'm at financially and we can go from there.

Taxes. Are. Awesome. Especially when you've paid tuition that year. My return was over $2000 and that's what's been keeping me afloat without a salary. Granted I haven't had many expenses thanks to my Aunt and Uncle being SO gracious to let me stay with them until I land on my feet! But student loans don't stop. I have been able to keep up with all of my loan payments and credit card payments so far and now I feel much better about continuing that now that I have a job.

Anyway, that was a tangent. I have roughly $1500 before my job starts. I pay $390 in loans each month (I got my Sallie Mae payments lowered for the first four years because I was jobless and knew my entry level job would come with a pretty low salary-I was right.) I pay an additional $100 to my credit card, which I no longer use at all.

I just paid $255 to take the train into the city from my Aunt & Uncles each day for work. That will last me through the end of the month. Advice: Buy in bulk! I'm looking to sublease an apartment for the summer until M (my NY bff) is done with her lease and we can move in together. Until then, I'm on a train. I found what sounds like a great place so I'll get more details tonight and hopefully see it this weekend.

I'm going to Target today to prepare for my commute: umbrella, travel coffee mug that will convert into a water bottle after my initial cup of joe, lunch box and an ice pack.

I am also starting to make a list of meals that are transportable, filling and CHEAP. Apples and peanut butter will likely be my go-to breakfast and I will likely live off tuna-salad sandwiches for lunch.

Maybe not having money will force me to lose weight because I won't be able to stuff my face. That's great news because I need to be able to fit into my work clothes; those babies are going to be around until they're WELL out of fashion because there's no way I can afford new clothes for probably a year.

My base salary is enough to cover rent/utilities, food, transportation, phone bill and loans-that's after I did the math of estimated benefits and taxes taken out already. Thank goodness there is room for more pay with more hours as well as my second job (although seasonal/temporary), which will help me cover other expenses.


Anyway, that's where I'm at. When I have new ideas on how to save money, I will post. It may not be every day but it will be much more often. I hope to be able to document my progress on getting out of debt, while managing to live in the Big City. Because hey, if I can make it here, I can make it anywhere...right?

I start Monday!

Start spreading the news!

The day has FINALLY arrived and let me tell you, it is blog-worthy!

I GOT A JOB!! A real one! With a salary, benefits, a real schedule, dress pants and coffee! YES! And it's a position that I have experience with and with a great company! (Sorry stalkers, no specifics for you!)

It's in New York City, making my assistant salary VERY interesting and gives a whole new meaning to the word budget. So welcome back followers, you're in for quite a ride.