Friday, July 30, 2010

How to Live Cheaply in New York: Entertainment

This is part of a series of living cheaply in New York. See previous posts: Grocery shopping, Housing

Here's the best way to spend less on entertainment in New York: don't go out.

Just kidding! Well, sort of.

In the land of $14 cocktails, it can be tough to find cheap things to do. Here are some free, cheap, and ways-to-make-it-cheaper options.

Free
Summer in the city is really the time of free. Of course, Central Park is always free. There's the River to River Festival (free concerts), Summer Movie Series (free outdoor films), free outdoor theater (what I call Shakespeare in A park), free outdoor fitness classes (I do yoga in a park near my home every week -- FREE!), free or pay what you wish museums (not just in the summer!), free show tapings--the Free Things To Do in New York City issue of Time Out New York has a lot of great options (I got a subscription -- you guessed it -- free). There are free things in the winter as well, like free skating in Bryant Park (if you have your own skates), and of course, wandering around and people-watching is always free.

Also, the library! The New York Public Library has locations everywhere and a fabulous reservation system. The Queens library is not quite as extensive, but I have found things there that I couldn't find in the New York branches. DVDs, CDs and books, all for free and then I don't have to try to figure out how to get rid of them. What could be better?

Cheap
There are a lot of cheap options for entertainment as well. Discount movie tickets are available from Costco and many employers. Happy hour specials abound across the city, and there are a lot of apps and listings around town. Yogoer.com shows free and cheap yoga and Pilates classes around town -- many other sites offer a similar service for their specialties. I joined a couple book clubs for cheap entertainment -- meetings are often held in our homes and we have a little potluck (as Isaiah Mustafa points out, libraries offer books for free en masse!).

Not cheap but with options
Restaurant Week gives you the chance to try high-class restaurants at a fraction of the cost. I haven't tried Groupon myself, but I hear good things about it. I have tried Restaurant.com gift certificates, which are awesome as long as you follow the instructions carefully. There are Entertainment Books available that provide coupons for a lot of different things, and Yoga Passbooks give you discounted entrance to a lot of yoga classes. Broadway shows offer discounted rush or lottery tickets and there's always TKTS.

It's totally possible to live a frugal but highly entertaining life here in New York City. It's a little more difficult than going to the most convenient option (bar down the street, full priced movie or show) but it's definitely achievable. And if, like me, you derive entertainment from saving money, well, your options are almost unlimited.

How do you save money on entertainment costs?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Oh boy

I'll be honest. This is the first time since I started this blog that I have been considering not doing an end-of-the-month recap, because I'm HORRIFIED at how much we've spent. Seriously, it's out of control, especially the eating out. We've been to brunch almost every weekend, out with friends...we still owe some friends a $100 dinner, and I'm going out for drinks again tomorrow.

Oooof.

Well, don't you worry. I'll still do a recap this weekend and see what the damage is. Peanut and I are both just a little more social than usual lately, and we're rolling with it.

In more exciting news, I made my first official student loan payment today. (I previously paid $263 to knock out the only unsubsidized loan I had to take out; the rest has been subsidized while I was in school and through my grace period which ends next week.)

I looked into consolidation again and it would just increase my interest rate by .75%. Uh, no, thanks. So instead, I scheduled a $4,000 payment against my $19,568 balance. That $4,000 was tuition reimbursement that I've received from my company that I hadn't already used to pay out-of-pocket for summer classes. I expect another $2,200 in a few weeks which will also be immediately applied to the balance. My monthly minimum payments are $225.20; I'll be putting more like $500 against them each month after the wedding, plus whatever other snowflake money I can come up with.

At this rate, Peanut and I will pay off $46,746 in less than two years. If we get really hardcore and try to live off one income and use the other for debt payment, it would take us only about a year. I'm suddenly very exciting about dwindling numbers!

Friday, July 23, 2010

How to Live Cheaply in New York: Housing

This is part of a series of living cheaply in New York. See previous post: Grocery shopping

New York has the highest housing cost in America:$4,300 per month for a two-bedroom, unfurnished luxury apartment. How can you cut down your costs if you want to live in the Big Apple?

Roommates
Many people in New York live with roommates for far longer than people in other parts of the country. It's not unusual to share an apartment with people you're not related to into your thirties or forties here. There are obvious drawbacks to this -- lack of privacy, living with someone else's stuff, having a roommate in general -- but a lot of benefits like halving rent and utility bills, a built-in social life, and someone to water your plants when you're on vacation.

Seriously, if you are moving here and do not have a fancy high-paying job, just expect to have roommates. And expect to meet them on the internet, usually Craigslist or a fee-based site like Roommates.com. It usually works really well -- I'm still very good friends with three of my first roommates from here. And if it doesn't, well, hopefully you moved into a share so you can move out whenever you want.

There are a couple different ways people share apartments here in New York: subletting, sharing, and co-tenants.

In a sublet, you rent the apartment from someone who probably doesn't live there. They can charge up to 10% over their agreed rent if they leave the place furnished. This works well for short-term arrangements, like if you're here for three to six months. Many sublets are illegal because the original tenant doesn't follow procedure, especially in co-op buildings, so I don't recommend them for sub-lessees.

Sharing is when you move into an apartment where you're not on the lease. One or more of the people who live there are on the lease, but they agree to let you move in and share the space with them for X amount of rent. This is less risky than subletting -- tenants in New York are allowed to have a roommate not related to them. The landlord cannot prevent it, and you're given rights in terms of eviction that sublessees don't always enjoy. If you sign an agreement regarding the security deposit and other particulars with your roommates, there's no reason this can't work out very well for you (my first two and a half years in New York were this type of arrangement). Another benefit is that you often just have to give 30 days' notice and can leave whenever you want. Just make sure you can either pay your rent directly to the landlord or trust that your roommate is doing it for you.

Co-tenanting is when you sign the lease jointly with a roommate (or several!). You'll all have to be approved for the lease via credit check, income (40X the monthly rent is a common requirement), etc, or have guarantors. Each person is individually responsible for the entire amount of rent, and if one of you wants to leave, notifying your landlord does break the lease and may involve penalties (or more likely, that person just leaves and the others rent out the room as a share to make up the difference). This is the arrangement I had with my last roommate and with Peanut.

You can also live alone in New York -- I did it on $35,000 a year and it was awesome. I had a tiny one-bedroom apartment but studios are also common.

Rent stabilized vs. rent controlled
I'm hardly going to get into this -- it's basically impossible to get a rent controlled apartment unless you're related to the person who's still there and have been living with them until they die. And then the apartment has not been updated in so long, it's almost unlivable. Most apartments I've lived in are rent stabilized, which limits the amount the rent can increase per year. That's likely to be the case for any apartment priced below $2,000. The city does maintain a list of rent stabilized buildings, in case you're interested.

Longer Commute
One great way to reduce your housing costs is to not live in Manhattan, or to live in the "undesirable" parts like Harlem, Hamilton Heights, or Washington Heights. Moving into Queens or Brooklyn makes rent MUCH more affordable and often doesn't extend a commute by all that much (it actually shortened mine). Moving to the Bronx, Staten Island, or New Jersey are also viable options, but I don't prefer the commutes.

Other Housing Costs
Other common housing costs to watch out for in New York include application fees, broker's fees (one month to 15% of the annual rent), utilities (Con Ed keeps raising electric and gas prices, but heat and hot water should be included in all large buildings), cable/internet (many large buildings have contracts with either Time Warner or RCN, which preclude you from getting a better deal somewhere else), and security deposits. New York landlords are almost infamous for failing to return security deposits (which cannot be used as last months' rent, so if you have problems, start with the attorney general's office and file a rent security complaint form. Related, "key money" (a deposit paid to a superintendent to get the keys) is an illegal fee, and you should also report that to the attorney general if you are asked to pay it.

If you live in a luxury building, doormen and other staff expect a tip at holidays. We gave our super $60 last year and will probably do so again this year. Unfortunately, people do expect to get tipped for doing their jobs.

How do you keep your housing costs down? Would you take in a roommate as an adult if it meant you could live in New York City?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Review of laser hair removal

It's now been about a month since my sixth (and final) laser hair removal procedure. Thought you might be interested to know the results.
 
They are FABULOUS.
 
To recap, I paid $900 for a package of 6 visits for underarm and Brazilian bikini laser hair removal. It's something I had wanted to do for a long time, and in fact something I'd already  flirted with -- I used to get a single session twice a year during Spa Week. I had good results, but for it to really work, you do need to go back every 4-6 weeks in order to catch the hair in all its stages of growth. So I'd been saving up for it and then found a spa with a "30% off two services" deal that made it totally affordable.
 
June was the last session and it's been a few weeks, so I think I can safely predict the final outcome of the process.
 
Underarms: 95-98% hair loss. I have shaved ONCE in the last month, and it wasn't because I needed to but because I felt like I should before my wedding gown fitting appointment. I no longer have five o'clock shadow of the pits (you light-skinned, dark-haired girls know what I'm talking about). There are a few hairs still there, but they are very fine and almost blond. At any point, I could go out in a sleeveless top without a second thought. LOVE IT.
 
Brazilian bikini: 85% hair loss. The hair here is coarser, thicker, and in general more difficult to get rid of, but I'm thrilled with the results. The, um, areas that are normally seen outside of a bikini have the most hair loss. Again, the hair that still exists is fine, thin, and light enough that I could actually go to the beach on a moment's notice without embarrassment. The areas that are, um, a bit more private had kind of spottier results, and I've got a kind of strangely shaped, um, "landing strip" (oh, geez, please, family, never read my blog) but I don't care about that. The bikini showing parts were the ones that always gave me the most problems with razor burn and those are the ones that had the best results, so again. LOVE IT.
 
I may go back for touch-ups once or twice a year. Or I may not. I'm really happy with the results as they are now.
 
A few notes:
Laser hair removal hurts. The good thing, though, is that it doesn't last long (both underarms and bikini took about ten minutes and the pain is not continuous). Unlike waxing, the pain stops as soon as the laser's not pointing at you anymore, so it's much easier to deal with. I find waxing torturous! Usually before my laser hair removal appointments, I'd pop an advil or tylenol, grit my teeth for a few minutes, and go on with my day.
 
The total cost for everything came to $1,140 -- $900 for the procedures and six tips of $40 each (I tipped more than 20% to cover the difference between the standard price and the discounted price I paid). I had been saving up for this for a few months before purchasing the package. It's a totally frivolous purchase, but one that I absolutely do not regret.
 
In all honesty, I'm really glad I don't need to go in anymore and have someone all up in my lady bits. It's like going to the gynecologist every month. But it definitely beats going in for a bikini wax every month forever!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Updates!

Where has the time gone?!

Peanut just complained to me today that I am not updating my blog frequently enough, and he needs something to read aside from the "awful" book club book (which was MY pick, so harrumph). So, uh, here's what's new in my life:

Thesis grade: A-
Cumulative grad school GPA: 3.85
I will TAKE IT!

I took my wedding dress to be altered today, and it's costing me a third as much as the dress itself to get it fixed. Geez. I'm so tired of seeing zeros get added on to something just because it's a wedding item.

On the bright side, my mom has offered to pay for a lot of the wedding! If you remember, I did try to talk to her about this months ago, and she refused to discuss it. It was kind of weird. It was a conversation I dreaded because she's religious and we're having alcohol, and a secular ceremony, and blah blah blah. But this week, she offered to cover some things (no dollar amount) like my alterations (she already paid for the dress) and the food and the flowers and the invitations -- basically, a lot of the expensive stuff.

Luckily, much of this is already finalized, so she can't attach strings to it. The invitations have been sent out, so the date, time, location, etc. is set (plus, you know, the invites themselves have been purchased). The florist, bakery, officiant, and photographer deposits have been paid. We'll pay for anything she's not comfortable paying for, like the booze and maybe the meat entree (my parents are vegetarians). But we'll have a lot more money (which I've been saving up for the past four months!) to throw against student loan debt. We can probably shave six months off our repayment time with her help, which could get her grandbabies that much faster.

And in a complete non-sequiter, Costco's return policy is awesome. We bought some fridge-to-freezer chicken thighs that were not okay at all, and they refunded the purchase without a question. Peanut thinks it may have been our fault (it's a 15 minute walk home from there, and it was hot the day we bought them) but I think as a one-time thing, I'm willing to put the blame on them (we've purchased the same item before, and it was hot then, too, and they were fine). Next time, we'll take one of those insulated cooling bags and the bus, but I was pleased that their customer service was so excellent, and that I got our $16.49 back.

Friday, July 16, 2010

How to Live Cheaply in New York: Grocery Shopping

This recent post at The Frugal Girl got me thinking. How DO we live in New York cheaply? I'm going to do a series of posts about how we live cheaply in the most expensive city in America. To start, here's how we spend less on groceries.

I did a little (completely non-scientific) research. The average grocery spending for two people in the US is about $224 per month; the average in New York appears to be $400-600. Peanut and I have averaged $288 per month over the last year, so we're spending a bit more than the average person in the US but WAY less than the average person in New York.

Here's how we do it:

Different prices at different kinds of grocery stores in different neighborhoods
Your grocery selection really varies by neighborhood. Prices were cheapest (and produce was most awful) when I lived in Harlem. Prices were most expensive (but with lots of fresh veggies!) when I lived on the Upper West Side. Where we live now, we benefit from three regional chain grocery stores, a couple mom-and-pop bodegas (what you might call a "party store" or "convenience store" in other parts of the country), an independent fruit/veggie mart, a Korean grocery store, and a natural/health food store, all within two blocks. A few blocks wider encompasses another regional chain grocery store, a 24-hour organic mart, a Costco, and a number of additional independent delis and bodegas. There's also a CSA location.

But not all of these places are created equal. One chain grocery store has consistently lower prices on mushrooms and flour tortillas -- by a couple of bucks on each! The fruit stand sometimes has the best price on stuff that's about to go off, and usually great prices on really seasonal stuff (and also 20 oz sodas). The health food place is great for buying in bulk, one store is better about coupons and loyalty card deals. We've had to learn where things are cheapest, and make a decision about whether to walk an extra block for $1.50 off mushrooms. You can create a pricebook or save and compare receipts to start figuring out where to go for staple items.

Weekly shopping with fresh produce updates
We try to go food shopping once a week (the day the sales go up), with a mid-week refresh of meat, milk, and produce as needed. When I had a car and lived in a place with a Walmart, I would go grocery shopping every two weeks. That's just a recipe for disaster here, where you have to physically carry everything home with you (and where we have little storage space in the kitchen).

Ethnic stores and brands
I confess that we haven't done a lot of grocery shopping at our local Korean mart, because I can't recognize anything in there. But when I lived in Harlem, I regularly bought a lot of my staples at a Spanish grocery store. They had much better produce than my local chain grocery store, but they also had ridiculously low prices on beans, tortillas, soda, and kool-aid.

$.99 stores
I hear this recommended for saving money on groceries but I don't prefer to shop at these places for deals. Their grocery sections are often either brand-name junk food or completely generic stuff that I've never heard of. I'm not fond of either.

Bulk shopping
Peanut and I do a lot of our grocery shopping at Costco. In addition to toilet paper, laundry detergent, and movie tickets, we get chicken (fridge-to-freezer or frozen), salsa, tortilla chips, granola, peanut butter, diced tomatoes, spices, frozen strawberries, juice, baby carrots, bananas, potatoes and other stuff that we use up quickly. (A few things that we DON'T buy there are rice and flour, because they only come in 20-pound bags, and we just don't have the space.) Bulk shopping is not for everyone, but it works really well for us. If you are single, you can share a membership with a roommate, or make friends with someone who has a membership (we're happy to take our friends shopping with us!).

Then there are a few things that work across the country:

Menu planning
We try to sit down every Sunday and plan our meals for the week, make a grocery list, and pick up as much as possible. This also helps us review our calendar together and figure out what's going on each week.

Couponing
Couponing is tricky here. A lot of stores don't accept home-printed coupons at all, and we don't have a newspaper subscription (nor am I willing to spend $4 on a paper that MIGHT give me that much in coupons). A lot of the coupons are for things we buy in bulk (Costco doesn't accept manufacturer's coupons) or stuff that we don't buy (highly processed box foods). I know that coupons work really well but the investment required here in NYC makes it not the most efficient way to save money.

Shop the walls
The biggest thing that has saved our grocery bill is starting to cook more from scratch, and we do that by "shopping the walls" of the grocery store. Most of the healthier -- and cheaper -- foods are on the walls of the grocery store: fresh produce, breads, cereals, grains, meat, fish, poultry, dairy, and frozen stuff. We dip into the aisles for canned goods and pasta stuff, but we try to avoid the chip and cookie aisles. If we want sweets, we'll make them ourselves.

What are your suggestions for cheap grocery shopping, wherever you live?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Winner!

Random.org has picked #4, so....Laura, congratulations! You've won a $60 gift certificate to Cookware.com, or any other CSN website. I'll be in touch by email with details.

Thanks everyone for your comments. I've got lots of ideas to add to our registry. :)

My observations of FB's observations

Yesterday, FB did a really interesting post about how people's spending changes across income categories. In the last five years, I've gone from the smallest to the largest category in her post, so I thought it'd be interesting to take a look at my own spending and see how it mimicks her observations.

Five years ago I was making just under $30,000. Currently, Peanut and I make between $100,000 and $125,000 and our income is for all practical purposes joint income (and for all legal and access purposes will be totally joint in less than three months!!!).

When I made less, interestingly enough, I spent more (both in terms of percentage AND actual dollar amounts) on entertainment and eating out, as well as "blow" money (a category I don't even have anymore  -- mostly it meant cigarettes). I also spent a lot more on making money, through dance expenses and mystery shop expenses (to be fair, I never went into the red).  It was at this point that my rent was at its highest as well, more than 50% of my take-home pay (!!!!). I managed to save quite a bit as well, but my spending in general seems a lot more frivolous.

I know I went to the movies a lot, paying full ticket prices. I bought cigarettes and ate out a lot more (my argument was that I was eating out cheaply -- like Taco Bell prices. Now I eat out less frequently but have better food). 

Now, I spend more on groceries and travel. My rent has gone down. My clothing costs remain about the same, as do my personal needs and household expenses. I spend a lot less on making money -- almost nothing actually. Last year I didn't turn a profit from dancing, and this year's winding up to be the same. As a money-making hobby, it's suddenly become too expensive timewise to be worth it.

I'm saving much more aggressively. I put a lot more into retirement. I'm saving for things much further in the future, like a car when we move away from the city. I'm saving for things with huge price tags, like a wedding and fun vacations. I'm preparing to start hammering away at student loans. Basically, I haven't upgraded my lifestyle a whole lot. I agree that some upgrading of lifestyle is unavoidable, and actually I think that's a good thing. Even when I made the lowest amount, I gave myself some blow money based on Dave Ramsey's principle that if you don't have blow money you'll blow the whole budget. As your income increases, you should recognize your hard work and allow your money to do something for you -- you just need to prioritize and tell your money what to do instead of wondering where it all went.

This exercise was very exciting, actually. While I do fall in the "normal" range for a lot of FB's observations, in a lot of important ways (particularly general spending and electronics), I don't. I've been putting money aside instead of upgrading my lifestyle, and I intend to continue this level of frugality at least until all of our student loans are paid off -- at which point we can REALLY go wild. We'll have almost $50,000 a year to play with, to save for a house or for traveling or for whatever we want.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Linkfest: Thesis Edition

It's official -- I have turned in my thesis. YAY!

Except of course, then I get home and see a blog post that would be a PERFECT little nugget of information to include but I can't do anything about it because I've already turned it in. pffft.

There are rumors that postage is going up again in January -- as a WeddingBee blogger points out, this is good motivation to get the thank you cards out in a timely manner! (By the way, our invitations are going out TOMORROW. AAAAAAHHHHH!!!)

Also, passport fees are going up next week. This means that my calculations for how much it'll cost to change my name just shot up by $35. An increase from $75 to $110 is pretty steep!

There's something in this Fake Plastic Fish post that I love: If I were doing an experiment to see if I could live with zero new plastic for a month or a year, I could eliminate a lot more plastic than I actually do...But Fake Plastic Fish is not a temporary experiment.  It's been my life for the last 3 years, actually.  Living with as little plastic as possible is something I'm trying to sustain indefinitely...Working to reduce our plastic consumption and to get companies to change their packaging doesn't mean we have to give up everything we love all at once.  It just means we have to make hard decisions about what things are really important to us and what conveniences are ultimately unnecessary.

There's a fabulous description of trying to get out of those data aggregation sites on WiseBread. The verdict: it's easier to keep information off the web than remove it once it's there. Think twice before making any information about yourself public. Related, LifeHacker recommends using a pseudonym to better control your online reputation.

Don't forget!

Last chance to enter the giveaway! Leave a comment on that post and I'll pick a random winner tomorrow.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

June Recap/July Goals

June Goals
 1. Pick officiant, identify flowers I want, get final quote from baker, find place to alter dress (which also means picking shoes), order invitations, call state clerk's office to verify requirements and figure out if I need to make an extra trip there to apply for the license. Mostly done -- officiant is hired, I sent flower inspiration ideas to the florist, invitations are in and I verified what I need to do for the marriage license. I did not remotely get around to getting my dress altered.

2. Finish thesis. Woo hoo! I've sent my final draft to some friends in the publishing industry for review, and so far everything is positive. Nitpicky things to fix, which means that on the whole, it's really good. I'll spend this weekend polishing and submit next week. WOOOOOO HOOOOOOO!!!!!

3. Declutter! Yes! We sold almost everything we wanted to and made nearly $300 for junk that wasn't being used. Awesome.

4. Go shopping without spending any money. Registries are set up.

5. Try to chill out. Pretty good. I've gotten mostly caught up at work and am feeling more confident about staying caught up. It's rough having a job that's enough work for two people.

July Goals
1. Get dress altered, send invitations, finalize flowers and ceremony, start thinking about centerpieces, book travel for wedding, have budget discussion with mom. My mother indicated on the phone last night that she wants to pay for the wedding. Now, I've tried to have that conversation with her at least twice and she wouldn't talk to me about it. Also, her money can come with strings attached. I'm not sure how this is going to play out, but I'm very happy that she's willing to help, and it'll mean student loans get paid off that much faster.

2. Be more present. I've been trying to be more in the moment in everything I do -- at work, not checking email every five seconds; at home, paying attention to Peanut and not being distracted by the internet; at yoga or dance, focusing on breath and movement rather than what else is going on.

3. Turn in thesis, get A, submit paperwork for tuition reimbursement. So the first part of that is a gimmee, since it's due on Thursday, but the rest is something I've got control over, right?

4. Try one new recipe each weekend. Peanut and I have been having fun trying new one dish recipes, and I want to keep it up!

5. Read and get rid of books. In our decluttering last month, we identified over 150 books to get rid of, and it was easily less than a third of our collection. We sold a lot of them to someone who has an Amazon store, but there are still a lot left, and even more bookshelves full of books I need to READ before we get rid of. I'd like to start blowing through that To Read pile and fill up the Giveaway bookshelf again.

6. Bonus, since #3 is kind of a cheat -- have someone over for dinner. Peanut and I have been talking about inviting over the neighbors or some friends -- trying to be a little more social in our home. I feel awkward about that, like our place is not so nice or I'm not a good hostess or something. I want to get over it.

7. Bonus #2, since I just thought of it -- get up a little earlier. Peanut has been getting up early to go running. I would like to get up earlier and do a 20 minute yoga practice before facing the day. It's so hard...but I did it this morning and there's no doubt my day went better.

Not-so-new monthly feature: New Year's Resolution Recap
1. Max out a Roth IRA automatically. Underway!
2. Pay down at least half my student loan debt. My loans are currently at $19,568.48. My first payment is due in approximately one month.
3. Give to charity. I have a Goodwill donation pile that I need to take in.
4. Finish graduate school while maintaining a 3.86 GPA and turn in my thesis early.Final being turned in this week!
5. Read more than 100 books. Totally on schedule for this.
6. Cultivate a more positive attitude. Doing better this month...
7. Take the stairs whenever possible. ...but not so much on this.
8. Seven minutes of yoga per day. I quit this in February or March in favor of weekly yoga classes. I love them. If I get to getting up earlier and doing 20 minutes in the morning, I'd totally meet this goal.
9. Develop a regular posting schedule for my "real name" blog. Still not updating that one anymore. My stalker ex freaked me out too much by retweeting my posts. I'm debating canceling the domain name and getting a refund for now.
10. Make less of an impact. Taking cloth bags more often -- we actually started to get very low on plastic bags, which we use for garbage bags. I'm also making sure to wash my grocery bags now!

June Spending Review

Misc Income: $391.48 (Pinecone payments, focus group, selling stuff and interest)
Savings
Travel $105
Gifts $40
Sunny Vacation $100
Student Loan Repayment $260
Wedding $305.84
Car $303

Total savings $1,113
Retirement
401(k) $295.40 pre tax (company matches that at 50%)
Roth IRA $454.54 
Total Retirement savings: $897.64

Spending
Cell phone $77.96(I did lower my bill by $7 with AT&T's new data plan, so this is the last time it'll be so high)
Dance expense $14.25 (class card, travel to rehearsal)
Entertainment $35.49 (cover and drinks out, movie tickets)
Food—dining out $100
Food—groceries $177.67 (both food categories keep going down, which is awesome!)
Gifts $66.95 (friend's baby gift) 
Household $7.92 (stamps)
Internet $16.98
Laundry $15.00
Mystery shop expense $70.37 
Personal $59.00 (laser hair removal tip,other needs)
Rent $687.50 (it goes up next month, boo)
Travel $220.80 (heading to the Midwest in August to visit Peanut's family for a wedding shower!)
Utilities $44.53 (small increase thanks to the A/C)
Wedding $289.87 (officiant deposit, invitations, stamps, thank you cards, address labels)

Total spending: $2,338.83

Networth IQ updated (see sidebar). Not too bad -- overall spending went down. Savings stayed mostly static, and my retirement accounts are down about 6%, but so are everyone else's. 


It occurred to me today that I will only do this spending review twice more as I have been for so long. The expenses listed above are all mine and those I share jointly with Peanut. But in September, we'll combine all our money and what I report will be our budget and our spending. Exciting and weird at the same time!



I knew it

THIS is why I'm not an early adopter of social networking technology.

Giveaway!

As you may have heard, Peanut and I are getting married and have been setting up our registry. So I've had home items on my mind, particularly kitchen stuff. Also, my thesis is due one week from today, so next Thursday is a pretty exciting day for me -- now I'm going to make it a pretty exciting day for someone else!

I was recently approached by CSN Stores, who sells everything from lights and beds to cookware and luggage. They've offered a $60 gift certificate to one of my readers valid on any of their sites. In order to qualify, check out http://www.cookware.com/ and tell me what you'd buy if you won. A winner will be picked at random on July 8.

I'll start: first of all, this red blender with a speed dial instead of buttons.Peanut makes a shake for breakfast every day and this looks like what he's been wishing for. In fact, I'm going to show it to him and might add it to our registry!

Good luck!

(Open to residents of the US or Canada. Shipping charges, taxes, etc. are your responsibility. You know the drill.)