Friday, August 28, 2009


FB's It's a Girl Thing, Honey post cracks me up--it's so true for me. Sometimes, I just need to CRY even though my life is generally going pretty well.
It brings to mind one of the funniest times in my relationship with Peanut--I'd had a bad day at work, and I was probably PMSing, and I don't remember what else. We made it to his apartment and I went to take a shower and just lost it before the water even warmed up--I cried and cried and cried, so I turned off the water and the light and snuggled into the corner by the sink and just sobbed my little heart out. Peanut and his roommate were watching a movie or something, but eventually he came looking for me and was horrified to find my crying in the corner of the bathroom in the dark. He kept apologizing for being such a bad boyfriend, and didn't believe me that it really wasn't that big of a deal. I'd been sad and needed a cry, and a dark bathroom corner is a good place to do it, and I hadn't been sitting there wishing he'd come comfort me or fix anything. Actually, I don't think I ever convinced him that that's just something that happens sometimes.
So Peanut, if you're reading this, here's proof that I'm not totally spastic. And that crying in the corner of the bathroom in the dark is not all that unusual. :D

Thursday, August 27, 2009

My declaration of independence

I kept thinking that at some point I would feel safe enough about money that I could give up the extra things I do--mystery shopping, focus groups, even belly dancing. I guess I always thought I'd just *know* when that time would come, when I felt like I was financially secure enough to give up these things that had seen me through some really lean times.

Just six months ago I was fully supporting myself, living in my own apartment making $35,000 a year. I was making ends meet just fine, and putting money into retirement and savings. Today my rent is ridiculously cheap by New York standards and Peanut and I split other household expenses so I'm not spending NEARLY what I was. And now I just got a $10,000 raise, which theoretically should make me feel flush enough to unsubscribe from InboxDollars and SurveySpot, like, stat.

It's both scary and liberating to feel like I've reached a point where I do not need to do some of these things. It's GREAT to think that I can cut down on the number of emails I get each day for surveys, focus groups and mystery shops. It's SO FREEING to think of not having to take tax considerations into account and save receipts for so many purchases, to think of doing my taxes without multiple Schedule Cs attached. But there's fear under there too. Where does that come from? I'm officially making more money than I ever have in my life, but I'm worried about giving up an income-producing gigs that pay less than minimum wage per hour, all things considered. Even though giving up those things would reduce my mental stress and inbox clutter considerably.


I'm going to take it slowly, but I'm going to start taking steps to stop mystery shopping. I'll unsubscribe from companies I haven't shopped for in a while, or even--gasp--delete my shopper profile. I'll review my mystery shopping filter less frequently. I'll stop thinking of the $12 and change I've got "built up" at Inbox Dollars, waiting for me to earn a ridiculous $30 before I can request a check (I think it would take me another three years to get close). I'll request payouts at the survey sites where I am able to, and cut my losses where I can't.

It has occurred to me in the past that putting all of my mental energy into my day job would probably result in my making more money solely from that job. I'm seeing that in action right now, so it's time for me to start making good on the part of the deal where I focus exclusively on my career. This feels to some extent like putting all my eggs in one basket, but seriously--I couldn't make enough from all these piddly things to support myself for one month, so why bother anymore? If something happened and I lost my day job, I wouldn't be able to support myself off of survey income and free meals--I'd get unemployment and then I'd start looking for a new job, and I have enough contacts in the industry that it probably wouldn't take me too long. And if it did, I'd go back to work at Starbucks or in retail or somewhere else where I could command an actual wage.

Belly dancing is a whole different can of worms. I love it for reasons completely unrelated to money, but realistically I am not going to have time for it the way I have--I won't even have time for it the way I've been haphazardly paying attention to it while I've been in grad school. I can't make a decision to quit cold turkey or even to taper off like I can with mystery shopping. I mean, giving up mystery shopping means losing out on some side income and some free meals and occasional things like this luxury gym, but giving up belly dance feels like giving up a part of ME. It means not performing. It means not working towards something and showing it off. It means likely never seeing some people again, people who make me laugh and challenge me. We don't have enough in common to be friends outside the studio, but it feels weird to choose to leave them. It means my brand new costume would never even get worn!

Of course, I'm being extreme here. There's nothing that says I have to give up belly dancing cold turkey right now. My mom had a great philosophy towards decluttering our things. She always said, "well, you can't get rid of it till you're ready, so if it bothers you that much, just keep it." So I would, and then six months or a year later when I came across that item, I might be completely ready to let it go with no qualms. That has to happen with belly dancing, but I don't have that kind of emotional connection with mystery shopping or online surveys.

So, I guess this is my declaration of independence. I am now a personal finance blogger who doesn't try to keep money flowing in by doing things on the side. I'm now a single-track career woman who has done some things in her past that she's not doing anymore because she doesn't need them. As of today, I'd rather work some overtime to secure my career than covertly shop at a drug store on my lunch break. I'd rather enjoy a restaurant meal at full price than stealthily time every aspect of my dining experience.

Yay for me!


With my new job comes a Sony digital reader -- AND I just found out that my class has been randomly selected to test out the Kindle for Classroom, so I'll be getting a Kindle, too! (I don't get to keep either of them, but still.)
What a great chance to test them both out at the same time and see whether my assumptions are correct. The great thing about the Kindle is that I won't have to purchase any textbooks for this semester--they're included for free on the device when I pick it up. Most of the books that I read I get from the library, so it will be interesting to test out the library's ebook rental system--I've used it before to read books on my computer, but I don't know how it works to put them on an ereader. And the great thing about the ereader is that since I have a whole new list of books to learn, it will be much easier for me to cart them around.
I received word today that my tuition reimbursement will be included in this pay cycle, so I should find out on Monday whether or not it actually goes through.
I also realized that I am speaking in front of a group of students in two weeks--and haven't worked on my speech! I think I need to get right on that this weekend. My alma mater invited me to go back to speak to my department's students about how you really use your degree in the real world. I'm looking forward to it, and will also visit with my parents and grandparents and see some good friends. But I need to write a 30 minute speech, um, pretty soon. And also book a rental car.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I finally have to let it out.
I got promoted!
It's a big promotion and comes with a $10,000 raise, with room for another raise later in the first year. Along with that raise comes a lot more and different responsibility, but I'm really excited about all of it.
I've mentally divided up most of the raise already--first things first, I max out a Roth IRA, then I funnel most of the difference into future savings. And maybe put a little bit more into the monthly clothing budget, because I feel like I might need to step it up a little to play with the big kids. I might also get a real, official gym membership (August is the month of all the deals, right?) but we'll see how that works out. I don't want to inflate my lifestyle too much!
It will be very challenging to start a new job at the same time as the first semester of my final year of grad school, but I think I'll manage. It's a little bittersweet--I have really liked the job I've held for the last three years--but it's time to move on and I'm totally ready for the challenges.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Change is in the air

I can feel it. And I'm looking forward to it.
In money related news, I haven't been spending much on anything but groceries. Despite the heat (and thus the use of our air conditioning) our first electric bill was totally reasonable, which I'm happy about.
I still haven't gotten my tuition reimbursement from my July class, although I've been bugging HR about it almost daily. I will bring down another copy of what I submitted last month to them today; hopefully that will get things rolling.
In fitness related news, I've been going to the fancy gym every three days or so, and I like it a lot. I hope to go tonight to do a pilates/yoga class, and I have a personal training session on Friday. I've been doing yoga or something active almost every single day, and I love it! I feel so much better.
I tracked my eating and exercise habits for two weeks using LoseIt!, an iPhone app recommended by Krystal at Give Me Back My Five Bucks. I did really well staying under the daily calorie allowance to lose 1.5 pounds per week, but I didn't lose any weight at all. However, I feel different and I feel like I LOOK different, and that's what was more important to me--I don't really care what a scale says as long as I can fit into my clothes and feel fit and flexible. I don't think I'll continue to use the app--it's pretty annoying to have to search for foods that I made from scratch or from non-chain restaurants, but it gave me a good idea of how many calories I can eat during the day without realizing it. I never counted calories before in my life, so that was eye-opening.
And in general, not-related to anything else news, here's what's going on with me:
* I seem to have hurt my toe and/or gotten an ingrown toenail. It HURTS. I can't wear heels, no way.
* A girl fainted on my train platform today. Luckily she was standing far back from the edge. I was too far to get to her before she was swarmed with people helping her, giving her water and orange juice, calling for help. I have fainted on the subway before and it was easily one of the worst, most frightening experiences of my life. A woman helped me, and I swore I would pass it along. I wasn't able to do that today--at some point, too many people helping becomes a problem of its own, so I stayed out of it when I saw that she was in good hands. I keep thinking about her though--I hope she's ok.
* I have been reading a LOT lately. I've been reading manuscripts at work during down time instead of roaming around the internet, and it's been a lot of fun. I've made it through most of our spring list in the last few weeks, which puts me at a great advantage in meetings--I should have done this from the beginning. I can't wait to get my eReader, so I can take stuff with me out of the office, too.

Friday, August 21, 2009

It's so close!

I just faxed over my application for graduation--I'm almost done with my master's degree!
Okay, granted, I'm not really all that close. I have two classes this semester (one required and one elective) and then in the spring I'll take the thesis class (required) and an elective, and the first summer session to finish my thesis. But I'll get to march in the spring! (And don't get all jealous, but my graduation ceremony is in Radio City Music Hall, which is the only reason I'm actually participating. I'm far too short to make it as a Rockette, so this is my one chance to be on that stage!).
I'm taking two more electives than I need to in order to qualify for aid--I have to be taking at least two classes per semester to qualify for my scholarship and the subsidized loans. Plus, since my job is reimbursing me up to $5,000 per year, I might as well max that out. Effectively, they have paid for the spring and first summer session of each year I've been/will be in school.
In other money and school related news, one of my teachers emailed us today to say that there is no required textbook to purchase for the class. And for the other class, a friend who's taken it already has offered to loan me one of the books but recommended that I buy the newest edition of the other one because she's found it so useful in her daily job. I've been using Chegg to rent textbooks wherever possible, but it looks like that won't happen this semester.
And lastly, I am still waiting on my summer class tuition reimbursement. It looks like HR has lost my paperwork AGAIN (this has happened every single time). Hopefully they'll find it (unlikely) or I'll bring them a copy of what I gave them a month ago (I expected this, which is why I made a copy!) and hopefully I will get it next week.
Also, I'd just like to note for the record that my GPA is 3.87. SNAP.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Big Book of Everything

Since I've received a few requests for it, I need to address something--
The Big Book of Everything (linked via Get Rich Slowly in this post) is unfortunately no longer available--the author of a similar work that was available for sale felt that this would cannibalize his sales and posed potential copyright infringement. Although I disagree (Erik claims that he had never seen Mark's work and from working in publishing I know just how frequently it happens that more than one person has the same great idea at roughly the same time), I respect Erik's right to remove The Big Book of Everything from his website as a courtesy to Mark.
In case anyone else is looking for it, I don't have a copy of The Big Book of Everything. I printed it but did not save it, and I clear my cache frequently enough that I couldn't recover any part of it (which is a little unfortunate for me, since I could use additional copies of some pages, like previous addresses and stuff). If you're looking for a copy of The Big Book of Everything, I suggest you contact Erik directly through his site and see if he is willing to share it on a smaller basis or even go to Mark to purchase It's All Right Here.
Or, if you're cheap, you could always put something like this together yourself. FlyLady has some good suggestions for lists of things you should keep in your files, and a google search of sites like Real Simple and Martha Stewart Living provide similar checklists. It's important information to keep around.
*insert snappy transition*
I went to the fancy health club last night to take advantage of my new shoes--I took some sort of boot camp class and Oh. My. God. I didn't think I was going to make it--not like I didn't think I was going to be able to finish the class, but like I thought I was going to die right there in the studio. Sweat was literally pouring off my face, which has never, ever happened to me before. Today surprising parts of me are sore (arms and shoulders--not surprising; boobs and inner thighs--surprising). But at the same time, I feel GREAT. I did that entire hour long class without crying or quitting. And for some parts of it, I really didn't do so bad. I'm taking the day off to recover and will do some light yoga tonight, then tomorrow I'm going to attempt my own boot camp circuit training with videos that I have at home (the health club has no classes I can squeeze in tomorrow between work and book club).
The thing I'm starting to realize is that if I'm really serious about getting fit and reaching my goals for strength, weight and endurance, classes are almost the only way to go for me. I'm really not motivated without a teacher looming over me and correcting me--videos are great, but it's empty assurance. "You're doing great!" calls out Denise Austin, during a move that I consistently skip because I don't like it.
So...I'm thinking that when this mystery shop is over and I no longer have access to the fancy health club, I might work some other angle to get a membership at a gym that has great classes. I don't know--most people seem more interested in cardio and weight machines, and gyms with popular classes are also likely to have classes that are really difficult to get into. I wish there was a gym of JUST classes that worked the way my dance studio works--you pay per class and can take pretty much whatever you want whenever you want, and you get discounts by buying a 10-class card up front.
Have you ever heard of something like this?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Spending money on fitness

Today at lunch I bought running shoes and socks for about $41.00 (the shoes and socks were both on sale, plus I had a coupon for JCPenney).
I've never owned running shoes, and have actually never run for fitness before. I'm not looking forward to it, but yoga alone is not enough and I'm not okay with doing jumping jacks or any other kind of aerobic exercise in my fifth-floor apartment. I will not be that neighbor.
Also, I'm mystery shopping a really beautiful health club right now and will have a membership there for the next three weeks. I intend to get all the value I can from it, including personal training sessions and classes, and I don't have any shoes that would be remotely appropriate to wear to a gym. Hopefully I will use these shoes to go running when I'm done with the mystery shop as well. I guess we'll see.
I wish I could afford the $200/month to stay a member of this club. The amenities are unbelievable and the vibe is relaxing and energizing at the same time. Ultimately though, it's not worth it to me. As it is, I'm struggling to carve out time to visit it as frequently as I want to, and once school starts again, no way. Running is free and local, and I can do yoga in my apartment.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I'm tired of money

I haven't been updating regularly because frankly, I'm tired of money. Tired of saving it, tired of spending it, tired of talking about it, tired of thinking about it. It's just a phase, probably. I hope.
Part of this has to do with the money situations being faced by my family. It just feels kind of hopeless.
First, I learned that my very well off grandmother is not so well off after all. When my grandfather died, he left her a lot of money--more than $2 million in the bank, plus a house worth $3 million as well as several investment properties. My aunt helped my grandmother manage all the properties and for many years things went fine.
Well, come to find out, one of my uncles had been asking my grandmother for financial help to buy a house and a farm and a bunch of animals. She kept giving it to him (why?!) and...well, the inheritance is gone. He frittered away who knows how many hundreds of thousands of dollars and no one knows where it went. Now family members are turning against each other, trying to force the uncle to sign something saying that he's already received his share of the inheritance, and trying to get a setup where the trustee of the estate has to sign something for Grandma to withdraw money so everyone knows where it's going.
And it's not even a matter of there no longer being an inheritance for my mom and her five siblings. The property taxes on her home and the rental properties totals more than she has left--what is she supposed to do? Go work at Walmart at age 75, after not having a job in 60 years? It's distressing.
Second, I just found out that my parents lost about 80% of their retirement savings last year. They were heavily invested in banks and insurance companies, including AIG. Two years ago, they moved across the state to take my stepfather's dream job, which included a 50% paycut. They felt okay doing this because of the strength of their retirement accounts, and now most of that money is gone. They'll be working for a lot longer than they thought. I always thought of my parents as very financially savvy and stable, and I still think that--they pay off their credit cards every month, save up to pay cash for large purchases, including college tuition for three kids (the fourth went to a school that was outside of the "agreement" so he didn't get any help but he had a big scholarship anyway). They made all the right choices and look where it got them.
I feel like I'm nowhere fanatical enough about saving for retirement, but at the same time, it's hard to psych myself up to be fanatical when there are so many nightmare scenarios of what can go wrong with what I do save. It just makes me want to build a house in the woods to live in, instead of saving up money in a bank.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

free magazines

Man, one thing I am loving about this recession is the magazine deals that are out there! I'm sad that some magazines are closing (Vibe is gone, Reader's Digest is barely hanging in there) but I don't buy magazine subscriptions because I don't like paying to be advertised to (this is my problem with cable TV as well). But with magazines trying to boost their rate base to keep advertisers on board, they're offering free magazine subscriptions like crazy! Right now, I'm receiving the following:
Martha Stewart Living
Time Out New York 
Body + Soul
O, the Oprah Magazine
Womens Day
I think there might be a few more that I'm forgetting. All for FREE!
My favorites are Time Out, Body + Soul, and Newsweek, although I wouldn't pay out of pocket for any of them. I just use a site like Absurdly Cool Freebie Finder to sign up and start getting my magazines.
It can be a pain to keep up with all the reading, but I usually take the magazines with me to the laundromat and read them there, then leave them behind for someone else to enjoy.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I've had a crazy busy week. A conference at work and lots of rehearsals for dance jobs have left me too tired to post and really even to keep up with the blogs.

And now Peanut just told me that it's time to go to the laundromat, so I will be signing off here as well.

I hope to get back to regular posting this week!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

July Recap/August Goals

July Recap
1. Unpack and make it feel like home! We're unpacked! And it's definitely starting to feel like home.

2. Keep an eye out for that security deposit. I did not get my security deposit back. I have written a letter to my former landlord, the next step is a certified nasty-gram and then calling in the Attorney General's office.

3. Transfer $$$ back into my savings account and reconcile all the moving costs. All moving costs are accounted for!

4. Open a joint checking account with Peanut for shared expenses. Done!

5. Restructure my budget to plan for more retirement savings and, my favorite, our Sunny Beach Vacation Fund. Done! New budget posted here.

August Goals
1. Get my security deposit back. Keep on keepin' on, as they say. (Who actually says that?)

2. Bring down the food budget. I did eat out quite a bit on my unexpected trip, but still. If Peanut spent even half as much as I did, that's almost $800 between us, which is nonsense.

3. Do yoga or pilates six days a week. I've got five days down this week, so I'm off to a good start. Peanut is a great nag. (I asked him to remind me that I wanted to do it every day and so far he's coerced me as requested every time).

4. Book a rental car for my planned trip. I'm heading to my alma mater to speak in a month and need to get a good deal on a rental car. Priceline, baby!

5. Have another "use stuff up" time. I've collected lots of samples and almost-finished bottles of personal care products (plus combining all my stuff from my apartment and Peanut's). It will probably take more than a month, but I want to go through and use it up before buying more.

July Spending

Misc Income: 394.54
(A focus group, mystery shop reimbursement, sale of a costume on eBay and survey income).

$360 earmarked for travel, gifts, Lasik, sunny beach vacation, electrolysis and the future in general--that's a $215 increase in savings!!!
$147.70 into retirement (company matches that)

Cell phone $63.16 (discounted this month because of the way the fee for upgrading worked--normally it'll be about $75)
Clothes $71.77
Dance Expenses $23.88 (expenses related to a photoshoot)
Entertainment $84.25 (expensive month! mostly related to seeing a dance competition)
Food—dining out $273.35
Food—groceries $211.50 (Hmm. Food spending overall is creeping up a bit)
Gifts $124.73
Household $59.21 (we had to stock up on paper towels, toilet paper, etc, and also checks for our new joint checking account)
Internet $17.47
Laundry $7
Moving $20 (I think that's the last of it--we took some friends out for helping us move)
Mystery shop expenses $53.30
Rent $687.50 (W00T!)
School $181 (fall semester charges)
Stupid tax $2 (ATM fee -- there was also a $35 credit card fee for typing my account number wrong while paying, but I called and they reversed it)
Therapy $75
Travel $472.20 (last minute plane trip for family emergency)
Utilities $0 -- we haven't been charged yet

Total spending: $2,427.32

Under budget, since the flight came out of the emergency fund (that's what it's there for!).

Networth IQ updated as well (see sidebar). My retirement accounts went up more than $1000!

back to eBay

I sold a costume on eBay yesterday--I never loved it, and I'd already replaced it, so I posted it for sale. I've sold lots of stuff on eBay but never something this valuable. I paid $350 for it a few years ago, wore it once for a performance and twice for a photoshoot. It was still in really great shape. It sold within 20 minutes for a Buy It Now of $150.


Now I'm kicking myself because I could have asked for more! Oh, well--I'm happy with $150 and glad that it's over and done with. I'll ship it on Monday and cross that off my to-do list.