Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

No-Spend November: Week 4 Recap November 30, 2011

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 11:15 pm
Tags: , ,

I figured I’d wait until the end of the month, since there’s a little more than 4 weeks in the month.  So, here we go:

Tuesday Nov 22:  I gave in and got soup at the work cafeteria.  $2.55

Wednesday Nov 23:  Driving home to NJ for Thanksgiving.  Some traffic made me decide to take a detour and look for a pit stop.  Found a random tiny diner to use the facilities, then felt bad for just using their place for the bathroom, so I bought a $2.25 burger.  Not worth the cost, but oh well.  Was on the road for quite a few more hours (boo traffic) so I guess it was good that I ate something.  Also, tolls (tallied up on my Fast Lane) for that trip:  $9.90

Thursday Nov 24:  Thanksgiving!  The only thing I spent was time with my family 🙂

Friday Nov 25:  My mom gave me an early Christmas gift:  a visit to her local hair salon so I could get highlights to blend away the gray hairs!  The hairdresser was pretty surprised at how much gray hair I had.  But I think she did a good job camouflaging it!  So, that was “free” as a kind gift from my mom.  I think she knew I wouldn’t do it otherwise!

The family tradition is going to a local shop run by a high school friend’s aunt.  That’s the only place we went, so we avoided the insane Black Friday shoppers.

Later that night, I drove with my younger sister to my older sister’s house to hang out with her and her husband.  On the way back to my parents’ house, noticed my gas tank was getting low.  Fuel up costs:  $33.86

Saturday Nov 26:  The thing about coming home is that we get a little spoiled.  Fun things included:  Going to the movies! We saw Arthur Christmas.  It was super cute, and really funny!  The kind of movie that I probably could only have seen with my family 🙂

Afterwards, we went to a local Mexican restaurant that we love.

My parents were awesome enough to pay for the movie and dinner.  Hooray them!  Thanks 🙂

Sunday Nov 27:  Didn’t want to leave!  Love being with my family.  Stopped partway home to grab a coffee and a small fries from McDonald’s to keep me awake and keep my stomach from growling.  $2.12.  Total cost of tolls for drive back to Boston:  $14.30 (I took the Tappan Zee Bridge both directions, they only charge going South/East)

Monday Nov 28:  Brought my lunch.  But I got tempted by all the Cyber Monday sales.

I had won a gift certificate from Cuddl Duds by entering their “Quote of the Day” contest.  (You can still submit your quotes for a chance to win!), and I also knew they were having a Cyber Monday sale of 30% off…I figured it was my best chance to get a good deal!  I went for the top and the leggings from the Activewear Lightweight clothing.  After discount and gift certificate, $9.80

Then, I was on the Kohl’s website, and realized that there was a slightly different selection of Cuddl Duds for sale.  There was some overlap between sites.  So, that made me decide I’d get the Activewear stuff directly from Cuddl Duds, but then I caved seeing the insane sales plus extra 20% off (making most other options cheaper than buying direct) plus free shipping, so I went for the ActiveLayer Top, then the Climatesmart Top and Pants.  I went a little nuts.  My logic was, hey, it’s cheaper on the Kohl’s website, but I have the gift certificate on the Cuddl Duds website, and only some things are available on each site….

My brain went crazy.  At least I got some good deals.  And if I regret these decisions, I can always return it (though, who am I kidding, I probably wont).  Total expense on Kohls.com:  $47.98

Oops.  Why did I buy all this?  My reasoning is that they’re good for outdoor activities, so between skiing, winter walks, and shoveling, I’ll get good use out of them.

Tuesday Nov 29:  Brought my lunch.  But then realized I needed shampoo/conditioner for my now color-treated hair.  Not sure how much it matters, but I wanted to make sure my highlights lasted!  And while I was at CVS I saw a coupon for $1.50 off any deodorant, so I picked up a new one while there.  I guess I cheaped out on the hair care, because I only spent $5.81 at the store.

Wednesday, Nov 30:  Last day.  I brought lunch.  But because of all the driving I did this month (i.e. a round trip between Boston and central New Jersey) I had to fill up the gas tank again.  $33.99.

This final “week”:  $162.56.

What a month!  I didn’t do as well as I hoped.  I caved a few times when it came to dining out or buying lunches.  And I spent more on gas than usual due to the extra driving.  Expenses I didn’t include throughout was rent, utilities, transfers to savings/retirement accounts, student loan payments, and my gym.  Why?  Well, most of those transactions are automatic, so they just happen on the days they’re scheduled for.  Yeah, my gym membership is charged every month.  $27/month.

So, total amount of money I consciously spent this month?  $438.05.  Not exactly no-spend, eh?  Some of these expenses were unavoidable (I need gas to drive to work!), some were splurges (going out to dinner, buying myself a new wardrobe of Cuddl Duds).  I’m planning on continuing to bring lunch to work as much as possible (though tomorrow we’re going out for a colleague’s retirement party…but Friday, I promise I’ll bring lunch!).  I know next month will be expensive, with more retirement parties, holiday parties, and Christmas gifts.  I haven’t started shopping for gifts yet, and I’ll try to not be too extravagant, but I do tend to spend a lot on other people for Christmas.  We’ll have to wait and see what happens.

So what do you think of my no-spend November?  Impressed at how little I spent?  Disappointed at how much I spent?  Or was that the exact amount you predicted I’d spend?

 

Weddings are expensive for everyone March 20, 2011

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 11:30 pm
Tags: , , , ,

First:  No, I am not engaged.  Just wanted to calm everyone down.

Whenever I read a personal finance book/blog/website, I am warned that I better save up for my wedding.  I’m quoted figures like $20k, or more, for even a small wedding.  I’ve thought, “Well, I love my friends and family and everything, but $20k for one day?  Are you serious?”  Even though I’m not planning a wedding or anything, I’ve already made a few ( financial) decisions about if/when I get married.

My dress will NOT cost thousands of dollars. I’ve seen episodes of Say Yes to the Dress (I admit, I watch it from time to time!) where the girls have a price goal of $5k, or more, or sometimes the father announces “Price is no object, I just want my little girl to be happy”.  At which point I yell at the TV.  I want to look good, but I’m pretty sure I can look pretty good without spending a fortune.  Plus, I’d only wear the dress one day.  And knowing my luck, I’d probably spill something down the front of it.

My cake will be amazing. I don’t need it super fancy.  I need it super tasty.  I also don’t need it in the shape of something ridiculous and difficult to make.  I might even go with cupcakes.  Haven’t really thought farther than “delicious cake”.

Other than that, haven’t really given much thought to what I’d want for my wedding.  So, we’ll just cross that bridge when we get to it.

But my other realization about weddings?  They’re not just expensive for the Bride and Groom (or their parents, depending on the situation).  They’re also pretty expensive for the guests.

I’m planning on attending two weddings this year.  I’m glad to be going, because I love the couples that are getting married, and it will be great to be there on their big day, and share it with them and a lot of other friends.  But these are the first weddings I’ve been invited to that require travel.  All other weddings that I’ve been to (with the exception of my older sister’s) have been local.  A GPS-guided drive to a town outside of Boston.  No flights.  No hotel stays.  Just a drive to a beautiful wedding.

So, I’m realizing that, besides saving up for my wedding, I need to save up money for my friends’ weddings.  Airfare isn’t cheap.  Round trips tickets could be upwards of $500.  And even with a group rate, the hotels are still $100 or more per night.  Plus, there’s the wedding gift, and I’m probably going to need a new dress.  Yes, I want to buy some new dresses.  And so maybe I’m using my friends’ weddings as an excuse for new dresses.

So, I am going to have to start two different wedding funds:  the one for my own wedding, and the one for my friends’ weddings.  They’re going to keep getting married, I can’t stop them!  And I want to go.  I don’t want anyone to think I’m not willing to go to a friend’s wedding.  Now I just need to figure out which flights to get.  I’m really bad at shopping for flights, through all those online sites.  Where do you go to find cheap flights?  I’ve tried a lot of the aggregated sites like Kayak, Expedia, and Travelocity, but I also know that not all airlines are searched by those sites.  So, suggestions would be greatly appreciated on that front!

Also, I’m curious…those of you out there that have gotten married, or are getting married soon:  how much did your wedding cost?  Is that $20k figure books keep throwing around accurate?  Did you spend a lot less or a lot more than that amount?  And how did you keep your costs low?

How much will you spend?  And do you have any definites like my dress and cake plans?  Is cost no object?  Or will you be trying to get by spending as little as possible?

 

Shopping will be my undoing July 6, 2010

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 9:02 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

To be honest, I never really considered myself a “shopaholic” (what, am I addicted to shopahol?)  I hate going clothes shopping by myself.  I require others to tell me that a dress or top looks good, otherwise I wont buy them.  I can buy jeans and dress pants on my own, but still hate doing it.  And don’t get me started on bathing suit and bra shopping.  Not fun!

So, I don’t tend to go shopping too often.  I’ll only go to the store if I’ve got a “need” for something (new dress, new pair of dress pants, etc.), and usually try to take advantage of extra sales or coupons available.  I’ve gone shopping with my younger sister (and my younger sister + mom), and also often times go out with my good friend Melissa, who has a keen eye for fashion and what works on someone.  So she and I have gone to the outlets on sale weekends to update my wardrobe.  But on those weekends I end up spending $300 or more.

So, I don’t go shopping a lot, but when I do, I tend to go nuts.  Especially if I’m using my credit card.  I’d probably spend a lot less if I bought clothes with cash because a) it’s more painful to actually see your money go away, b) I wouldn’t want to bring too much cash with me when I’m out and about, and c) I like it better if I’m getting rewards (either from store cards or my rewards credit card).

My other shopping weakness is gifts.  While I know that cost of a gift is not representative of your love for or friendship with the receiver, I feel the need to buy the right gifts.  I’ve recently been a slacker when it comes to Birthday gifts (and some wedding gifts) and end up sending them late, but even then, I buy a lot.  Probably I spend even more because I feel a little guilty for sending gifts late.  I am a lot more likely to spend money on gifts for other people than on things I want for myself.  I rationalize spending on others readily.

The good news is that I tend not to get gifts for people unless there’s an associated event.  So, some months I spend a lot less (no birthdays/holidays).  Though I have bought things “just because”…so I should watch out for that.

Overall, I don’t spend a lot of money.  But excluding my necessary expenses (i.e. rent, utilities, loan payments, gas), my gift expenses tend to add up.

Do you have a shopping problem?  Do you store up your shopping until you can do it all at once, or do you buy the occasional item when necessary?  Any tips on reducing spending?

 

Buying a car August 10, 2008

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 12:27 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

So, unlike my last post that merely mentioned cars, this post is actually about cars.  Somehow that post was made one of the top posts on the cars news list list on wordpress, which bumped my stats up a heck of a lot.  Which I found silly, since I didn’t really talk much about cars.

Anyway, so I’m writing this post to sort out my thoughts on buying a car.  With my new job, I really need to have my own car, as I can’t depend on borrowing friends cars much longer.  I know there are so many different things to consider, and I’m never very good at making decisions.  My friend Kendall just bought a car (and wrote a post about it), and she made it seem so easy!  I’ve taken a few steps towards buying a car, such as buying a copy of the Consumer Reports Cars magazine (they also have a pretty extensive website and blog, but a lot of it is by subscription only).  I’ve gone through all the new cars they’ve listed and sorted them out into cars I’m going to consider and cars I wont consider based on price, gas mileage, and appearance.  I know there are more things to consider, but that was my first step on paring down my options.  I know that, besides the cost/gas mileage etc. that I also want it to be a safe car (both for driving and, heaven forbid, an accident), that has airbags and other safety features like antilock brakes.  I want decent trunk space and prefer 4 doors to 2 doors.

Things I’m not sure about:  The maximum I’m willing to spend, how to go about getting insured, whether to do financing, and if I do, then with what organization?, new or used, how to negotiate.

I know for financing that it depends on the deals I can get.  If I get an interest rate lower than my current savings rate (with ING at currently 3%) then I’d consider it (I know that car dealerships sometimes have deals like that).  I also don’t know what sort of loans I’d qualify for.  I probably could also get a car loan from a bank, as well.  I shamefully don’t know my current credit score, so I guess I should figure that out.  If the car is cheap enough, I could perhaps pay it all at once with money in my savings account.  But again, that would most likely depend on what sort of car loans are available to me.

As for new vs. used, I’m worried that with new cars you lose a heck of a lot of the car’s value once you drive it off the lot.  But with newer cars comes more safety features, and perhaps better gas mileage.  On the other hand, I don’t want to spend too much, and used cars tend to be cheaper.  If I bought a used car, I would likely buy it from a dealer that certifies the cars and provides the warranty for it.  But sometimes you can actually get pretty good deals on new cars if the timing is right.

So it’s a pretty big step to take.  I’m trying to sort out all the different factors, but it’s difficult.

What do you look for when buying a car?  What are your priorities?  Any recommendations on a fuel efficient, relatively inexpensive car?  Do you buy new or used?

I just feel so overwhelmed, so any advice would be greatly appreciated.

 

Sharing Assets, Sharing Debts April 28, 2008

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 5:30 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

My boyfriend and I were joking about getting married the other day, and he joked that he’d want a prenup, as I’m bringing more debt to the playing field than he is. That got me to thinking…would I want to share my debts and assets? I don’t know if it’s just me, but I kind of want to be responsible for my debts, and keep my money to myself. I don’t want whoever my future husband is to have to shoulder my student loan debts. But I guess, I also sort of selfishly want to keep my money to myself, too. I read in plenty of personal finance blogs about how couples share everything, moneywise.  I think I wouldn’t mind having a joint bank account with my guy, where shared costs like housing, utilities, food, dining out, etc. would get paid from, and we’d put a certain amount in that account every month to cover those expenses.  I know my parents share their money, and I admire that in them.  Maybe this just proves that I’m not ready to get married any time soon.  Don’t worry, I’m not expecting it (in case he’s reading this…we’ve only been together a year)!

So, you single folk, dating folk, married folk…when it comes to money, what situation do you prefer, or assume you’ll do when you get into a long term relationship?