Thursday, June 30, 2011

5 Day Weekend Here I Come

In half an hour, I'm outta here! I'm off to a place where life is cheaper, simpler, slower and sunnier. I'm pretty excited to see my old friends from the south and to relax on the beach for days on end.

Have a great long weekend everyone and Happy 4th!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dear fellow gym members

New Yorkers are weird. Just plain weird. Most days I'm surrounded by so much weirdness that it doesn't phase me in the slightest. Sometimes though it is purely jaw dropping, like the time I walked past a homeless man orally helping out a homeless woman on the sidewalk...if you know what I mean. EESH!

But last night at the gym, I saw some really abnormal workout etiquette that I care to share. Granted, my gym is the cheapest in the city, which probably means it attracts a few more oddballs but still, I don't see how they could take themselves seriously.

1. During a Zumba class, someone was wearing camo cargo shorts.
No joke. I give her credit for working out even after maybe forgetting workout shorts but they can't be comfortable with all the jumping, booty shaking, and funky dance moves we do in that class.

2. Two women were wearing sunglasses. Inside. During their workout. One kept them on top of her head and one actually wore them. It was not because she was blind, I promise I took that into consideration before I categorized it as odd.
They didn't look this cool
3. Sunglasses woman ALSO wore a version of this:
Please keep in mind that she was in her 60's.

4. My instructor herself is in her 30's, wears braces and almost always has a scrunchie in her hair to every class. Braces, I understand because no one wants janky teeth at any age, but a scrunchie? Cringe.

The gym is still the best $20 I spend each month. It fills lots of my time, it has helped me start losing the nanny 15, the college 15 and the internship 20 I gained over the past 5 years (6lbs lost so far), it has helped me start my next big life goal of running a marathon and it has given me a nice routine for starting life in a new city.

Do you go to a gym and if so, how much do you pay? 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Another year older

Friday was my birthday and I now have to tell people I'm 23. It's my final year of being in my early 20's...not sure how I feel about that.

Thanks to our office policy of Summer Fridays, I had the day off. I slept in, I finally got most of my room unpacked (yes, almost a month later), treated myself to a mani/pedi and went out on the town with the girls. Don't worry, we didn't rack up this bar tab though:
I wish I was the server for this bill!! Tip alone was $24,869!
I actually didn't spend much money at all except for contributing a few dollars for a cab ride home.

I spent the rest of the weekend working, which turned out to be decent money. Thursday night I made $150, Saturday $150 and last night $130. Not too shabby. I'm really enjoying getting at least $300 paychecks every Friday.

The thing is, I would rather get my tip money in check form on Friday than take home cash at the end of each shift. I'm absolutely terrible at holding onto cash! The subways are usually down late at night on the weekends (or takes 30 minutes to arrive, which sucks when you are alone and there are creepy men and rats running around) so a quick cab ride home, sometimes a quick stop for food or drinks after work, a coffee in the morning and boom, there goes my cash when really that money is not mine to spend yet. Oops. So when I have the option to pay the bar and bus boys in cash or credit, I choose cash whenever I can. Does anyone else have this issue and what did you do about it?

In related news, I'm making more money than I expected. The week before Friday's paycheck went entirely to me to be split amongst debt/savings/me. Even that was plenty extra and I was happy to have helped my savings and make a bigger credit card payment. Since my cutoff each month is the 25th, when I have to start paying the following month's loans, the most recent paycheck from this past Friday should have gone to me as well. Another $300! Nice! However, since I am out of town this weekend (Thurs-Tues), I'm not on the schedule at all this week so I've decided to put that $300 towards my loan payments instead so I don't fall short in July. I'm out of town a lot in July so I probably won't make as much money. I don't even know if that made sense to you but I hope it did. It basically boils down to that I'm not being stupid or selfish with this paycheck.

Happy Monday! I'm off to Starbucks to redeem my free coffee! If you have a Starbucks gift card, register it because you get a free drink for your birthday! However, you only get one free drink even if you register multiple cards. Lesson learned!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Dear Chipotle,

I have a serious bone to pick with you. Your tacos were expensive enough. You did not need to raise the price.

It's great that you now offer an option to get 2 tacos instead 3 because America knows we need better portion control. However, for you to charge the original price for the 2 tacos and to charge extra for ordering 3 is wrong.

You continue to make it impossible to find cheaper options at your fine dining hall, so as a result, I will have to find cheaper options elsewhere. I'm sad to leave you but it's for the best for my wallet.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Being busy is expensive

Now that I'm working and working out more, I'm home less. Add in a few social outings and my home life is pretty minimal. It's great that I'm making more money and working out more, but it's making me spend more money.

On Sunday, when I worked a double, you can bet your bottom dollar I wasn't going to come home at 11pm, stop at the grocery store and prepare lunches for the week. Then on Monday when I workout after work and don't get home until later (yup, I'm spending lots of time at the gym with these classes and running!) I'm still not really in the mood to cook that late. Then yesterday I was just plain tired. Tired from working Thurs and Friday nights, getting up early on Saturday to go to the beach all day and stay out late, getting up early on Sunday to drive back into the city and work a double, and working and working out all day Monday. I headed home and was starving. While I walked I debated grabbing food so I wouldn't have to cook. I walked past the yummy take out places, attempted to get groceries at Trader Joes but my hungry stomach was not going to wait in that line without maybe eating the arm off the person in front of me...definitely frowned upon at Trader Joes. I ended up going all the way home, slamming two bowls of cereal and relaxing all night. That has resulted in me eating out way too much this week. Yes, I'm making more so technically I can afford it but I'd rather not be spending all my money on food.

Additionally, when I'm busier, it requires me to remember a lot of things in the morning. I have to remember food (if I've prepared any) for breakfast/lunch and sometimes dinner, my workout clothes/shoes or work clothes/shoes, a book for the subway, my iPod and headphones, socks and sports bra for workouts, a water bottle and an umbrella, just in case. Sometimes I forget these things but I won't have time all day to go back home to get them.

One day I forgot socks when I had gotten all the way to work. Being in tennis shoes for 13 hours a day requires socks so I had to run to Duane Reade and get a new pair. Sometimes I forget my water bottle (actually I can't find my new one, major bummer), so I have to pay a dollar at the gym for one.

This morning I couldn't find my iPod when I was leaving for work. Normally that sucks big time but as long as I have my headphones I can listen to Pandora on my work computer and on my phone while I work out. I made sure I had my headphones but when I went to get them out of the bag, I couldn't find them anywhere! They were old and the headphone padding had come off on both ears so I went to Duane Reade to get a new pair. Bad idea. The only selection of headphones was kept behind the counter so I couldn't make a good decision because there was a long line behind me. I grabbed a random pair and they are by far the worst headphones I've worn. They don't fit in my ears well and the sound seems to be coming from miles away. They are already in the garbage. When I returned to my desk and cleaned up my bagel wrapper from breakfast, ta da, there were my original headphones! Such a Katie move.

So I'm struggling with the idea of if working more is even worth it because it's causing me to spend more. Ultimately yes, it is worth it because I am still putting so much more in savings and towards debt but it's not increasing stuff I'm trying to save for because I have to spend it on stupid things I forget or don't have time to prepare. It might just mean I should cut back on time at the gym one night a week so I can prepare meals and maybe I should probably pack my bag before I go to bed since Lord knows I'm not great in the morning. I just don't know how to pack enough down time in when I have so much on my plate and I don't want to spend the little down time I have planning meals and "working" at saving money.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I can't believe it's that easy!

It feels great to have my bills paid off early without any stress! We get paid weekly at the restaurant and Friday was my first paycheck from my first two official shifts. In addition to the cash I brought home (usually not much) from those two nights, I got a check for $355. Not too shabby! In addition to the $90 I already had towards loans from the training paycheck and cash tips, ta da! Loans are paid and I have $53 left over.

Friday a family rented the whole restaurant and they gave each waitress $100 that didn't have to be split with bartenders or bus boys. Nice!

Sunday was packed! From the minute we opened at 11:30 to having to close the kitchen early at 9pm, we constantly had people in there. There was a big Gamecock baseball game going so lots of parties came in and again I was the only waitress, with the same bartender and same bus boy as last weekend. This time however, the cooks couldn't keep up with the amount of people and they screwed us over big time. When people don't receive their food on time, they take it out on the tip they give the waitress even though it's not my fault at all. The cooks get paid the same amount if they work quickly or slowly so it was just infuriating when I had to sit and watch a family wait 45 minutes to get their food and I couldn't do anything but refill their drinks. I definitely didn't make as much as I could have because I got such poor tips, but $178 is still a nice chunk of change and would pay for one loan alone.

So over the weekend I ended up with $331 for me to split according to plan. Some of it will be coming in my paycheck on Friday and some of it I've already split up. I loved being able to make a bigger payment to my credit card debt and increasing my savings yesterday and I loved having some extra cash for the beach! It feels great that only a few shifts a week can make such a big difference in my financial stability. It definitely takes effort and will still take restraint because my personal spending money is still pretty low for a place like New York and for a craving for travel/shopping/food like I have but at least I'm tackling my debt and increasing my savings which is most important.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Happy Father's Day - A day late

I get these moments of clarity about the role my dad has played in my life and how lucky I am to have my dad out of all the dads in the world. Sometimes it's because of something crazy or outstanding he has done ( like when he surprised me by paying my car bill) but it usually happens when I'm talking to my friends.

Most of my best friends have fathers who are sick, have already died, or have not been present in their lives. Without it being a major topic of discussion, I notice the absence of stories they tell about their fathers compared to the regular dad anecdotes I share and it breaks my heart at the idea that they might have had a dad like mine and they have to live without him. Ouch. How absolutely devastating.

My dad is not only a presence in my life, he loves being a great dad. He will go up to anyone (strangers included) and brag for an entire day about how great I am (his words, not mine!) and how proud of me he is. He always tells me he loves me and he is always interested in what's going on in my life. He lights up when I surprise him with a visit home or even if I decide to join him on a grocery shopping trip. He will listen to me vent and make me laugh. He gives the best hugs. I couldn't be luckier.

I wanted to get this post up yesterday but I did managed to call him before working a double. Anyway, HAPPY FATHER'S DAY DAD!

Friday, June 17, 2011

I feel like a stripper

I have to take a lot of singles to the bank in large amounts when I deposit my tips. Yes, credit card tips come in the form of my paycheck but I save up my cash tips from a few shifts before I make a trip to the bank. I always wonder what they think my story is. It's probably pretty common with all the waitresses/waiters in New York, but you never know since there are plenty of strip clubs as well.

Anyway, last night we had 4 waitresses, which turned out to be 2 too many. My tables wrapped up nicely all at about 9pm and I was out of there by 9:30 with $102 in tips. Hells yeah! Whatever I make from last night, tonight and Sunday will be on my last paycheck of the month before I start putting money towards August loans so it's pretty rewarding knowing that I will get to directly benefit from this money.  

$102 from last night alone means $51 to my credit card bill, $25.50 to me and $25.50 to savings. Nice :)

After work I met up with my friend B at the bar she works at. Since she knew the bartender, we got free drinks so my fun night out costs $5. Not too shabby. B has a beach house in NJ and invited me there for the day on Saturday. I'm debating going since I will be busy the next few weekends and I've been wanting to go but I still have unpacking to do, I'd like to sleep in, I wanted to get a good workout in and some other friends are having a girls night out. Fortunately she said I can wait until after work tonight to see how I feel and decide then.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

You know what sucks?

Getting an e-mail at work sent to everyone about how their bonuses will be taxed...except I don't get one.

Thanks guys.

I mean, I know I shouldn't be getting one and I'm fine with that since I just started...but they don't have to rub it in!


I need an accountant. I need someone to manage my expenses and keep the numbers straight because no matter how on top of things I stay with my Excel spreadsheet, the numbers don't add up at least a few times a month.

After my crazy spending spree and transferring money from savings to checkings to make sure I don't overdraft or anything, my numbers are seriously off. My spreadsheet says I have $300 less than my bank account. I checked and double checked ever ledger line to make sure I didn't double enter something or forget to add something. I have no holds, I have no bill payments processing. Is it that I'm just that dumb?

How do I overestimate how much I spent and transfer that much from savings?? It's a good thing, if it was just a user error but if it's not then I might overdraft by $300. But it makes no sense. It's like the spending spree I just had never happened and I can put all my money back where it came from.

How do you keep track of your money and do you ever make big ole errors like this on a regular basis or ever?! Has anyone tried an online financial tracker? I never know if they're safe with them having such personal information but clearly I am not safe with my fuzzy math.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ocean's Eleven is not Legally Blonde

Today I was tired. Sleepy tired and exhausted mentally and physically. And it showed. I tried to workout since I waitress the next two days and won't be able to. I made it 2 rounds of running (I'm just starting so I walk 3, run 2, repeat) and even Friends wasn't going to keep me going. I kept yawning and wishing I was curled up in sweat pants. I tried to do the bike instead for the other 20 minutes since it was a good Friends episode and sitting down was probably going to be easier. After what felt like forever, I looked down and it had only been 5 minutes. I knew that was my cue to just call it a day, rest up and try again later. I guess that's what I get for working out really hard for two hours both nights before.

On my way home I realized it was movie in the park day at my apartment complex. Last night I got so focused on unpacking my room that I skipped painting my nails so I was happy to relax a bit. In my tired state, I was thrilled that tonight's showing was Legally Blonde. While at the grocery store I grabbed some cookies and a few essentials because cookies, sweats and a chick flick was right up my alley.

I surprisingly convinced my roommate to join me (she's getting her doctorate at NYU and I didn't think a smarty pants would want to watch a brain cell killer chick flick. We grabbed blankets, pillows, cookies, etc. and find a nice spot on the grass. The sun finally sets, people kind of shut up...but come on, it's New York, it's not actually going to be quiet for a movie.

The movie starts and the opening scene takes place in Rome. Umm what? I've seen Legally Blonde way too many times to know that it starts with "Perfect Day" at a sorority house with lots of excitment because Elle is about to get proposed to. Not some serious scene in Rome.

Me: "Is this the movie or just the previews?"

Roomie: "It's the movie."

M: "Really? I guess I haven't seen the very start of it in a long time, I usually watch the TV version."

R: "Oh maybe." Confused, "Am I living with a dumb person?" look...and yes, she is way too nice to say "dumbass" or even think it.

The movie continues and there are no blonde sorority girls anywhere.
"This is Legally Blonde right?"

"Umm no, Ocean's Twelve..."

"Ohhhhhhh. Right, I knew that."

No wonder smarty pants was so willing to see it. There's a reason a didn't get into NYU and it's not just because my SAT scores got messed up.

**Side note** I wanted to include pictures from the movie with voice captions to explain the story line of tonight's events. However, I can't figure out Picnik. If any of you want to give me tips or a quick tutorial, I would gladly listen! It's for your enjoyment too since it will make this blog funnier! 

I still enjoyed a free movie outdoors. I have seen Ocean's 11 and idea why I skipped 12. They had dessert trucks where you could buy $5 brownies but I brought my own cookies and a water bottle. Any bets on how many mosquito bites I'll have in the morning?

Bed time 30 minutes earlier than normal and 30 minutes later than I wanted to. Gotta rest up for two nights of working in a row. Can't wait to sleep in on Saturday!

Although it's a little unsettling to not know how much you'll make in a night, a week, or a month and bill payment/extra money is not a given, I do like playing the guessing game. I was shocked to hear X suggest that I would make $220 in tips as the only waitress on Sunday but I blew both of us away with $250. Fingers crossed for more good shifts! It might become a regular thing in my blog since people seemed to enjoy the rainy day guess. Sorry, there won't be prizes every time. Any estimates on how much I'll make? Guesses can be for one night or all weekend.

An instant mood booster

So maybe you're like me and need some inspiration and a mood lifter after my frustrating and sad last post. Maybe you're realizing it's only Wednesday and the work week is dragging on and you need to laugh. I happened to catch this on my newsfeed and if I imagine him talking about money instead of riding a bike, I'm instantly encouraged! Hope it brings a smile to your day too!

Honesty is brutal

Plenty of people in my real life read this blog--to those of you, I don't want to hear a word. This post is just for myself to document my progress and lack thereof, so if you feel a lecture coming on, just don't because I won't listen. Hearing "don't do it" won't help me so don't bother. Please only comment if you have words of wisdom, new strategies to try, or other sources of actual motivation.

As much as I would like to make this blog always happy and upbeat about the great progress with money I'm making, I have to be real. I'm not always great and sometimes I make mistakes with my spending. Sometimes when I come into more money than I'm used to (aka waitress tips that cover my loans in 2 shifts), I spend too much. I buy things I've had my eye on and think I can afford. In reality, I can afford one of these things, not all of them. It's like binge eating for dieters, I binge shop. I'm not happy about it and I've done much much better about this but to be honest, it still happens on occasion.

I didn't get myself into more debt, all my bills will be paid on time and waitressing will help me cover the difference as I improve on how to handle extra money so it could be worse. But I'm in the dog house with myself and I know it. Lesson realized (I'd like to say learned but sometimes even though I know I shouldn't, I do...hence the blog name).

I can't get what I want when I want it, like I used to (it was a terrible habit to get into since I couldn't afford it then either!). Even if I worked an extra long shift, even if I made more tips than expected or even if it's on sale. "I deserve it" means nothing to an excel spreadsheet of dollar signs.

So there you have it. People have to be honest with themselves when they cheat on diets and I'm being honest with myself when I cheat on my budget. No one is perfect and we all splurge sometimes and as much as I am improving and doing better, you need to know I make mistakes too. I wish I had an upbeat, motivational story about how I saved money today but I don't. But I promise you that another day I will.

I meant to end this with an article I read about shopping and things to keep in mind when you're buying clothes but I can't find it now. There were some obvious but helpful reminders to make you realize you probably don't need that extra pair of jeans or the cute new pair of shoes. If I find it again, I'll be sure to post it. Since the article does you no good at this point, maybe this simple picture will. I need to make a poster of it for my room, one for my wallet and one for my forehead.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Decisions Decisions

Warning, a pointless, irrelevant post full of word vomit. I'm not offended in the slightest if  you don't read this. 

I just got home from 2 hours at the gym (aka I'm exhausted) and made myself dinner. I have two things on the agenda in the next 1.5 hours: work on unpacking my room and fix my toes (remove polish, clip, and paint) since they have been in desperate need for ages.

I made the mistake of sitting on my bed while I eat and with my recent workout, I might be down for the count.

Should I give myself a break by resting and doing my toes first and then dive into unpacking or get the unpacking over with and then relax before bed?

Well, this irrelevant post actually helped because while I was typing I realized I should unpack first so I don't smear my fresh nail polish on all the crap in my room. It, uh, looks like this

Thanks for reading. Financial updates, wisdom (or lack there of) and stuff will resume tomorrow.

20 Things Tuesday

It doesn't roll of your tongue exactly like "20 things Thursday" but who cares, I have a lot of ground to cover.

1. New York City really is the city that never sleeps. I've had two official waitress shifts so far and I have not been home before midnight yet. And yes, I work at 8am the next day. 

2. Waitressing is bringing in some big bucks though so at least it's worth the long hours. Wednesday was my first night and I get $102 in tips. Sunday, I ended up working all day and was the only waitress for the NBA finals game that night so I got $250 in tips. Yup, my student loans for July are almost paid for with those shifts alone.

3. I thought I made a lot less but apparently waitressing pays $5 an hour. Maybe that was just my training hourly wage but either way, I got $70 for training so with all that, my loans are more than paid off for July.

4. Remember my plan about what to do when I make more money than what I budget for? Well clearly with this side job I will almost always have extra money each month. I realized I had to set a monthly deadline of when my waitress money needs to go back to loan payments for the following month. Whatever I make between the 26th and the 25th of the following month, it needs to cover my loans first and the rest is split with the 50% debt, 25% saving and 25% me. This is about the paychecks I receive in that time span plus the cash tips I can bring home at night (if people tip with credit, it goes through my paycheck so I don't take that much cash home, at least not yet I haven't).

5. My parents were in town all weekend. It was WONDERFUL!! I showed them around the city Friday (yay summer Fridays!) and we did some shopping and went to the confirmation party of a family friend Saturday. They are the best folks around and I'm bummed I only see them a few times a year.

6. My birthday is in 10 days and while my parents were in town I got these:
7. They also gave me a gift that keeps on giving...a 6 month payment plan to help me with my loans and savings. Each month I normally pay them $53 for my portion of the phone bill. From June-Dec, however, I don't have to pay them and they will also pay me $150. $100 goes to a loan payment to speed it up some and $100 goes to savings. With a deposit and first month's rent for the new, furniture-less apartment lurking around the corner, I need to save all I can get.  THANKS MOM & DAD!!

8. Online shopping is way too tempting and evil. For real.

9. When your parents offer to take you to Target, don't forget your list so you forget major things you meant to get. Aka extra flip flops since they're $2 and I blow through them in the summer and new headphones since I use them all day every day and the padding has fallen off the right ear...not very comfortable.

10. But when your parents offer to take you to Target, it is always awesome and helpful.

11. I've done a great job of sticking to the food in my cabinets as often as possible. Yes, there are tons of great NY restaurants near me but I have to bypass them unless an emergency or special occasion. Fortunately I get free meals when I work long shifts waitressing so I don't always have to bring food.

12. I've also done a much better job of eating healthy, yet inexpensive produce. Yes, I do have mac and cheese some nights but yesterday when I stopped at the grocery store I only bought produce (apples, lettuce, avocado) and I brought a delicious salad for lunch today.

13. I recently bought this salad tupperware from Target:
I had lettuce, canned salmon and avocado with balsamic vinaigrette in the dressing container. It was great but on the commute in, dressing leaked out so I only got half of what I packed and the salad was a little dry. Not sure how to combat that but overall the container is awesome!

14. Working out has become a real hobby for me. I'm mixing up classes (sculpting, Zumba etc) with running and I've lost 3 pounds since last week when I first tried on the bathing suit. Don't worry, I'm being healthy!

15. I've bumped up my level of running for training to be able to run 2 min straight. I rotate walk 3, run 2 for 25 minutes. 2 minutes is a short period of time but I used to struggle with running 30 seconds so it's rewarding to see the improvement.

16. My apartment building has a laundry room in the basement. It reminds me of Friends when Ross and Rachel have a laundry date. I'd show you the clip but I couldn't find it. I'm surprised at how cheap it is!...did I really just say that about something in NYC? It's $2.25 for wash and $1.10 for dry. I have a few things I dry on tumble mode and the rest I dry normally so that works out perfectly.

17. I made a few waitressing friends at work and one of them keeps bringing me books to borrow. How awesome is that? And they're interesting! Currently I'm reading Confessions of a Carb Queen and it's fascinating!

18. Working is a good alternative to going out and spending money. I'm never bored. I work Thurs, Fri and all day Sunday but I do have all day Saturday off. What should I do?!

19. My parents helped me move all my stuff from my aunt and uncles while they were in town. I haven't had much time to unpack so my room looks like this:
I don't know if you can see the hangers and clothes rack in the corner but it fell the first night I put it up. Perfect. My million dollar room doesn't even come with a closet so a new, better quality clothes rack is in the mail. It better work because my work clothes can't exactly stay crumpled on the floor like they are now.

20. Lastly, here's a shout out to Chubby Chicks Run Too, she's getting a blood transfusion today and catching up on her blog reading while she is at the hospital all day. Hopefully this cures some of her boredom!

More regular posts will follow, I promise!

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    I've been meaning to tell you...

    I'm not ignoring this blog I promise! Throughout my day I plan blog posts in my head but between working a lot, the parents being in town and oh, did I mention, working a lot? I've been pretty swamped. I have many posts to come and they're mostly good things! Just keep in mind, all that working I'm doing will mean some great financial news for you soon! Maybe a 20 things Thursday?

    In the mean time, at least I'm not out being this girl:

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    Sometimes you have to say no

    At the gym yesterday, I saw a commercial for a free Subway sandwich when you try their new bacon, turkey, avocado sandwich.Yum! The offer only lasts until tomorrow (apparently without cable I'm missing out on these deals!) and only applies to the NYC area. Normally I would take advantage of this deal tomorrow since I waitress at night and will need two meals prepared for the day. And hello, I love me some avocado, bacon and turkey.

    However, I have plenty of food already for this week so I'm choosing to eat left over pizza instead. It's a bummer but it's the right thing to do.

    I'm finally realizing that even if things are a good deal, if you don't need it, don't buy it. If it was a one time only deal for something I can and will use down the road, fine, maybe. But everything I recently bought is perishable and I can't neglect it for a good deal.

    Sometimes I'm not so clueless with cash after all :)

    A lecture and a debate

    I came across this article about the basic rule of spending money "spend less than you earn and invest the rest".

    I have finally had two pay periods where I've managed to not overspend and charge the rest, which is a big improvement for me. It involves cutting back, finding alternative options and getting a second job that pays more money. So yesterday, when I realized I had plenty of food to get me through to Friday's payday and I still had a little left over, I spent the rest shopping.

    In a casual conversation with X, I got this huge lecture about how just because I have some money left over, I don't have to blow it all because I can. I should be saving it for unexpected expenses or big items I'm working towards in the future, like my half marathon trip to Dallas.

    Yes, he's right. I should have saved it and most of the time I will. He claimed I was justifying my purchases like I always do, which he's right, I was. But would I rather spend $7.50 on a shirt or $10 shorts I can wear over and over or $5 on a load of laundry a few times a week and wearing out my clothes faster? Plus, when I have done a good job of cutting back so much, some rewards are necessary for motivation.

    I know I can do better and I am working on it by finally living within my means. Yes, I have a ways to go until I save more than I spend or I am out of debt but for as much as I love shopping, I think yesterday's purchases were good, practical ones so I got pretty bitter about the lecture.

    With each paycheck, I'm getting better about how to manage the money that comes in and my goal for next week is to have at least $20 left over and I will save it. When I only have $189 for two weeks, I think starting with $20 is a good goal. I'm also hoping waitressing will bring in more money than I need for my loans so I can save more, work on debt more and have a little more money for when I do want to shop a tiny bit.

    Sometimes I wish being on a strict budget was like being on a strict diet. If you cheat every once in a while, there are no serious consequences. You won't go into debt if you eat more calories than you're supposed to. With money, you literally don't have any more to spend so there is no room to cheat. I guess that's a good thing but sometimes it's just plain hard.

    Happy Monday! Oh...wait...

    It sure feels like a Monday because I had yesterday OFF! After working Saturday night and Sunday brunch, I crawled into my bed with my sore feet when my boss called to tell me the office had to close because of an electrical problem. And he wasn't kidding! My feet instantly felt better and I was off to M's for fajitas and cable!

    Yesterday was a real treat! It was gorgeous outside, I saw Bridesmaids ($6 before noon and I brought my own popcorn...shhh!), I walked around and enjoyed the diverse neighborhoods, met M for a quick coffee break (her's, not mine), did some shopping, and went to the gym. Those last two deserve some explanation.

    Yes, I shopped. But not like I normally do. I had a $50 visa card from a rebate from my new phone. I thought they would just put money back on my account but no, I had a card. Originally I just wanted to look at shoes and get an idea of a great pair I could wear for waitressing and another cute pair for walking around town since I do so much more walking in this city. I also needed some black shirts since I don't want to wear the same black shirt to work every shift and I don't want to pay $5 for a load of laundry--I can and will go a whole month without needing to do laundry.

    I stopped in Marshalls where they have great discount clothes, much like TJ Maxx. I found the cute pair of comfortable shoes for much cheaper than on the website, check. Then I moved over to women clothing and noticed a whole rack of workout shorts. Ever since I bought these:
    I've been living in them. Since I'm training to become a runner, one pair wasn't going to cut it. See above where I talk about laundry. I originally grabbed 10 pairs because I loved all the colors and I was thrilled to see my size since it's apparently pretty rare, I'll let you decide what that means. Although I wanted to leave with 8 of them, I left with two. Kudos to me.

    There were no decent black shirts but next door was an Old Navy. I easily found simple black shirts on sale for $7.50. They also had a sale on bathing suits. Since I'll be in Charlotte in less than a month spending my whole weekend in a suit, I figured I'd at least try one on. Yikes. Everything fit fine but the reflection in the mirror was scary. First of all, I got some sun the other day and had some weird tan lines. Secondly, with moving and starting a new job last week I didn't make time to workout and I had taken all of Memorial day weekend off too. Not pretty.

    After checking out, I was mortified by the bathing suit try on so I walked directly to the gym. I had intentions to go after Bridesmaids but I got sidetracked and was going to put it off but since I still had my gym stuff with me, I had to go. Fortunately I made it in time for a sculpting class. Bingo! It was great and challenging but I didn't feel awful afterward. As we were leaving, a new class was starting. I had never tried Zumba before but I've heard great things. I assumed I wouldn't be coordinated enough but when I started watching them, I was thinking "that looks easy enough" and before I knew it, I popped in the back door and jumped right in. Yes, two classes back to back. While I was Zumba-ing, I realized the Bachelorette started at 8, right when this class would end. I was all pumped up and thought, "Hey, I could watch it on the treadmill and burn even more calories!"...I swear, I have no idea who took over my brain last night because I'm never that motivated. I think trying on bathing suits was a God send.

    I only made it through 30 minutes of the Bachelorette before my feet were exhausted so I called it quits. The subway stop is right outside my gym so I went to get on but it was going to be another 20 minutes for the next one to arrive...that's a whole different post! I could walk home in the same time so I did. Woof.

    I finally came home for some left over pizza...yes, pizza but since I can't always afford healthy food, I took advantage of Papa John's 2 for $5.99 each and have meals for the rest of the week. It was a nice treat after working all weekend.

    So after all that working out, I'm not all that sore. I feel fine except for walking up stairs at the subway stations. Then I turn into an old woman.
    I have a much cuter dress on today...and I don't do hats.

    But my question is, for anyone who works out regularly: If your body can work out more, how do you overcome your feet being tired from staying on them the whole workout? Granted, my feet were tired from walking around all afternoon too but still, it's a bummer when that's the only thing holding me back. Is it something I'll just get used to? Is it my shoes? Is there a stretch or anything I can do to make it better? I have this same issue while waitressing for hours on end.

    Saturday, June 4, 2011

    I could get used to this!

    I'm being wonder woman at saving money the past 24 hours without cramping my normal routine too much.

    Waitressing last night actually went really well. I didn't completely screw up anything and the place and people seem cool so I wouldn't lose my mind spending hours of my life there. My favorite part is that I don't have to carry big huge trays and definitely spilling everything all over myself and ruining people's meals. That was my biggest fear but fortunately we have a guy whose sole job is to run food out and help clear plates. I may carry one or two plates at a time but I can handle that.

    So by the end of the night, the really nice lady training me told our boss I was a pro and that a) I should be able to leave early and b) I did a great job. Yes! I guess he forgot that he told me to come in for brunch today so he asked if I could come in on Sunday. I asked if he still wanted me for Saturday but since brunch is slow on Saturdays he is having me come in Saturday night and Sunday brunch. Nice! I don't think I'm getting paid for training but if I find a place that I would like to work at, it's worth the orientation phase. And now that I don't work until 5 tonight, I can go enjoy the nice weather outside for a while and not be bored on a Saturday night.

    After work last night, I met my friend at a bar where she is bartending, literally 3 blocks from my new apartment. Way convenient! A few of my friends met up with me and since I lived so close, I didn't have to share a cab with them! YAY! Besides tipping my friend, we got free drinks and still had our usual fun.

    Then this morning, I saved money by making pancakes for breakfast instead of always going out to eat. I accidentally didn't buy the pancake mix where you only add water but the box had instructions on making 5-7 pancakes so I made those and sqeezed at least 9 pancakes out of it. Now I already have breakfast ready for tomorrow and probably another meal sometime in the next few days.

    One more thing before I go enjoy the sun...when I was at my friend's bar last night, she said they are always looking for bartenders to help them out. Additionally, they only like to hire inexperienced people so "they don't take advantage of the bar"...not sure what that means but I'm definitely inexperienced! So I told her I could definitely do a Friday or Saturday shift, not every week but maybe one or two. She makes up to $300 in one night, which would be amazing extra income for me! She said she would talk to her boss today so fingers crossed!

    Are you doing anything to save money this weekend?

    Also, I need to stock my fridge and cabinets a little better if I'm eating at home so much more. What are some of the cheapest meals and foods you eat?

    Happy weekend everyone!

    Friday, June 3, 2011

    New Job

    I start waitressing in less than an hour. My coffee never kicked in today and I just want to cuddle in PJs with a marathon of Sex and the City or go walk around the park and go to happy hour with my friends.

    I know it will be great to be trained so it's very necessary to go but I won't make any tips tonight and I'm just nervous that they won't want to keep me like the last place. I'm nervous it will be packed and I'll get overwhelmed and not do a good job.

    I'm nervous that I probably won't get a break and I'll be so hungry I might eat off people's plates before I serve them...don't worry, I won't really. But I'll want to.

    I think I can...I think I can...


    Living in New York City is tough. Most things are inconvenient,
    Try getting from one place to another with this kind of navigation!  
    My daily commute invades my comfort zone beyond imagination
     and expensive.
    Absolutely true.

    By the end of the day, now that I don't escape to Pleasantville suburbia (the town next to where I was living is really called Pleasantville), it takes more energy, motivation and a positive state of mind to accomplish nearly anything.

    However, I now have a daily reason to be optimistic. I bought my monthly subway pass yesterday and this is what I found:
    Normally on the back of these cards, there is an ad telling you that the subway can take you to see the Mets play and where to buy tickets or other unnoticeable messages. But not yesterday. Yesterday, when I was really questioning my move for the above reasons and wondering to myself, "Why did I uproot myself once again so I have to adjust to new new areas and new friends?" I got this token of hope. Call it cheesy but it turned my night around.

    I found a K-mart to buy very basic apartment necessities. I appreciated that NY doesn't have a Target because I shop much less at K-mart. I hope I don't offend anyone but although there is a picture on their window that says "I <3 K", it's not my place. I won't buy their clothes or shoes and they don't have a ton of stuff I have the severe urge to buy. I stuck to pillows, hair products and allergy meds and it was a piece of cake walking away with nothing else. This is a great thing because it's a 20 minute walk to get there and there's no way I could carry my normal Target shopping trip all the way home. And because my hands were full, I couldn't even be tempted to walk into one of the awesome looking restaurants on the way home for dinner.

    Instead I enjoyed cooking some mac & cheese and I got back on the subway to meet M (new name for the bestie...she would hate that I call her that) to walk around central park. Free exercise, great views of the skyline at night and good conversation...pretty awesome for just a casual weeknight walk.

    I know there will be times that living here will be tough. Tougher that most cities and I will wish I was anywhere else with my own car, a big ol' Target, and my family close by for a hug and a laugh but thanks to this MetroCard, I will feel a little better.

    By the way, if you have a Dunkin Donuts by you, go buy a beverage (iced caramel latte for me!) and you get a free donut!

    Also, June is my birthday month. Are there any good birthday promos I should sign up for?! In Minnesota, I used to eat for a week free thanks to all the birthday meals and deals I got that month but NY doesn't have the same places.

    Thursday, June 2, 2011

    I survived my first night

    Home sweet home apparently. I was going to cave and take a cab with all of my bags to avoid the rush hour subway. hundreds of cabs drove past and no one was willing to help a lady out. I moved to different corners and eventually made it to a subway station anyway. Dumb idea. The 5pm subway with a really heavy duffel bag, tote bag and a comforter bag is damn near impossible. It was hot, packed and the trains were running late. Miserable. There was no way I was getting on the second subway I needed to complete my trip so I got out at Union Square and tried to hail a cab from there. After a lot of patience I managed to get there $10 later.

    Once I got to the room, the girl I'm subleasing from announced we were going to dinner at 8:30 to this great little vegan place. Ummm excuse me? I suddenly got flashes of the scene in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days where Matthew McConaughey made a delicious rack of lamb and they have to go eat at a vegetarian restaurant instead and he has to swish water around in his mouth after every bite. I'd post a clip if YouTube had one. I was less than thrilled to spend what little money I have at a place I didn't even want to go but I didn't want to be the pain in the ass new roommate.

    While I waited for dinner, I made a trip to the grocery store to get a few staples: Cup O Noodles, Frozen broccoli, peanut M&Ms, peanut butter, veggie oil, popcorn, pancake mix, butter, syrup, milk, tuna, ranch, ice cream, eggs and a salad bag. $32.89 Keep in mind I also found a sale at Target on Mac & Cheese and Pasta Roni and Ramen so I can mix those into my meals too. I figure all of these items can form some sort of meal for the days I'm not allowed to spend any money or the money I have left is already spread too thin. According to my subleaser, I went to an expensive grocery store and she suggested I go to Trader Joes...that can't be less expensive, right? I've never been to Trader Joes but I bought the cheapest items I could but nothing I bought was more than $5 and the majority of it was under $3. I guess I'll have to explore the area more.

    Eventually it became time to leave for dinner. After waiting a long time, we realized they only take cash...perfect. We had to walk to an ATM which of course wasn't a Wells Fargo affiliated ATM so they charged me an extra $3 plus my bank charges $2.50 per withdraw at a non ATM bank. Super duper. Lesson learned, carry cash apparently. Or maybe don't go to vegan restaurants.

    My sea ceaser salad cost $11 which turned into $17 with the ATM fees. I would have happily made mac & cheese at home instead. And that is exactly what I will do tonight.

    So the first night was a little rough but I do have some good news!

    I got another job! I found a place willing to start training me as a waitress and it's close to my work. The place seems nice and the food looks great. I start tomorrow night (training on a Friday night...throw me to the wolves why don't you?!) and I'm also working brunch on Saturday. I'm pretty excited and really hoping this works out for a longer amount of time. If I can be a little more financially stable and maybe even have a little extra.

    Wish me luck!

    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    Start spreading the news

    I'm leaving today! As of today, New York City is my new home. Wow, I never thought I would actually say that.

    When I was a nanny in New Jersey, 4.5 years ago, my godmother gave me this snow globe. You can wind the knob on the bottom and it plays "New York, New York". I have kept that with me everywhere I go with the goal that one day, I will make it there.

    It is hard for me to believe that when I'm finished with work today, I don't have to leave the city. I won't be living out of suitcases and duffel bags commuting from the suburbs or crashing on bestie's couch. I have two hours added to my day without the commute.

    I paid rent and my checking account is nearly empty (don't worry, savings is still very much in tact) and I just discovered I like Cup O Noodles. It's not always going to be easy but I'm living out my first goal in life and that's worth it all.