Thursday, August 31, 2006

Last Post Before the Wedding and a Confession

Folks, This will be my last post before the wedding and honeymoon. I am pretty happy with my decision to iron my own wedding dress. I talked to a couple of places and the quotes I got to press my dress was between $45-$75. I borrowed my sister's iron and ironing board and spent about a total of 2 hours working on it. It looks fine. All of my friends were kind of scared that I'd ruin my dress. If I ended up doing that, my backup plan was to borrow my sister's dress. I am happy to say that there is no need.

Tomorrow we have the rehearsal and I have a low-key bachelorette party. On Saturday we have a BBQ. Then Sunday is the big day! We're not leaving for our honeymoon until Tuesday night.

My confession is . . . my fiance doesn't know about my blog. To my knowledge, no one I know in real life knows about this site. I am planning on telling him about it soon after we get married. I am a bit apprehensive about telling my fiance about my blog since thought it was weird that someone would blog about their financial life when I showed him the article in BusinessWeek (or was it Newsweek) about Jonathan.

Expect no posting for 3 weeks or so. Have a great labor day!

My Raise - The Percentage

Ok, so since I only received one comment to this post, John gets to know my raise percentage increase. It was about 12.5%.

This is a mid-year raise since I was promoted. We do performance reviews twice a year - one at mid-year and once at the end of the year. I expect to get another raise at the end of the year, hopefully with a similar percentage, but I doubt it. Almost everyone gets a raise at the end of the year. I know of colleagues who have only received a 3% increase with promotion, but their original salaries were greater than mine.

Half.Com really works

I posted 12 or so books for sale last week and I have already made 3 sales! As I mentioned here, now is a good time to sell your books, especially books that might be required for a class. All the books I listed last week were all from the same class I took in college. I think I spent a fortune on those books - at least I'm getting a little bit back.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

My Raise

As I mentioned here, I am getting a raise and promotion, effective September 1, 2006. I just found out what the number is. Now to my loyal readers (if any of you are out there), would you rather know the dollar amount or the percentage of the increase? Please let me know by 9 a.m. August 31, 2006 Pacific time by commenting.

I think I am a bit underpaid. I detailed my lack of salary negotiation before starting my jobs as 2 of my largest financial mistakes. See my post here.

So while, I did get a pretty big percentage increase, I do not think the raise is that much dollar-wise.

Convenience Costs A Lot

I think most people know it's typically cheaper to buy a large box of something than to buy prepackaged snack packs (this isn't 100% true all the time, so I would still check the per ounce prices). What I mean is when you do not plan ahead, you end up spending more money.

For example this week, my fiance and I were working on our wedding programs at his house. Then I realized that I forgot the paper we were going to print the programs on at my house. My sister and her husband were coming over soon to help us work on the programs. So we had to go back to my house and get the paper. Unfortunately I do not have a printer and my fiance's house was too far away so we had to go to Kinko's. Total cost, about $25.

All the little things add up when you don't plan ahead - the afternoon snack when you're starving, dinners out because there's no food in the refrigerator.

My point is, plan ahead and save some money!

Start Buying Your Christmas Gifts Now

I, like most Americans, often wait until the last minute to buy Christmas gifts. This year I decided to try and do something differntly. I try to shop a little as the year goes by - especially now. I am on the lookout for items that I think my friends and family will want. I then buy them now, or sometime wait for them to go on sale. Then once they're home, I wrap them up.

I personally love to wrap presents, but I hate to do it when I have a gazillion other things to do. Buying gifts slowly gives me pleasure since I spending money on others and I get the joy of wrapping presents for them.

Of course, there are some gifts that are a better price during the holiday season (or even right after the holiday season). On those items, it might be better to wait for the big sales.

Friday, August 25, 2006

I Made My First Sale at!!!

I was happy to check my email and see I sold a book for $18 on! This was a book I had purchased brand new about 4 years ago. I was one of the lowest listing price despite the book being in almost brand new condition since I was interested in getting it out the door. I'm excited about getting it sold!

If you have old textbooks or books that may be used for a class, this is the time to list them! New students will be interested in buying books in the next couple of weeks!

Moving Day went Well

I wish I could say that I am all moved into my new home, but not quite. My fiance and his parents came over with a borrowed pickup truck and their largest car in an attempt to move all of my stuff over to our new home. We made a valiant effort, but I do have a lot of stuff. I also have a lot of random consumable items that will be helpful in our new home, such as laundry stuff that my mother does not use.

We were able to get most of my stuff over. A few more pieces of furniture are going to be moved over such as: one more dresser, a desk chair, some bookcases.

Things we have already moved over: 1 Twin bed & boxspring, 1 large desk, 2 dressers, 1 nightstand, 2 large shelves, 1 lamp,and several boxes of books.

My room at home is much nicer with less furniture. It allowed me to rearrange my furniture for the first time since I left college. This made me value simplicity more.

After college, I moved a lot of my furniture from my apartment to my room at home since I still wanted to keep it.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Lot of Exercise for my Credit Cards

This week has been a huge spending week. Last Sunday was the two week mark before the wedding, which meant a lot of payments were due. I have one main credit card that I use for my everyday purchases. I have some other credit cards, but I normally don't even carry those around with me. I put the rest of the tab for our reception on my regular credit card. The $8,000 charge was initially denied. My credit limit is $10,000 and I had already charged $1,500 for the month. Then I tried to have them put $5,000 on the card and it was denied again. I figured the credit card company thought someone had stolen my card. I can't remember what the largest item I had put on that card was, but it couldn't have been more than $1,000. I called the company and they did say they thought these charges were unauthorized. They removed the hold and I was able to charge the $8,000 to my credit card.

We also had to pay our photographer the a bulk of her fee. That was another $2,000. However since I was so close to the credit limit on my main card, I had to use another credit card. I decided to use my AMEX through work. I think that may have been against our policies, but I paid it off today, so there's no way the company would be liable for my charges.

We also need to make sure all of our credit cards are paid off before we embark on our honeymoon and they we don't charge too much on them while vacationing!

Hopefully my cards won't be getting too much exercise in the future.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I Have a Lot of Crap

I will be the first to admit that I am a pack rat and I keep many things I do not need. Being involved in the PF community has made me much more aware of the benefits of simplifying my life. I appreciate Seattle Simplicity and Stop Buying Crap.

In getting ready to move, I have realized how much stuff I have accumulated over the past twenty some years. Moving across the country forces you to minimize the amount of stuff you are willing to keep. However, having a mother who is willing to store your stuff allows you to accumulate even more. So even when I was living in New York, I had a ton of stuff here in California.

I keep many things because I think that I may need them in the future. I have already pared down my wardrobe to clothes that I like. I will admit that there are many clothes that I keep more for sentimental reasons than because I want to wear them. In addition, my frugality makes me think that someday when this or that wears out, I will want to wear that other item.

My mom is planning to sell her house in about 2-3 years. That means that all of my crap will have to be out of here, whether it finds a place in my new home or in someone else’s home.

I have a box of items that I want to sell, but not having a digital camera puts a damper on that. Once my fiancé and I move to SF, it should be easier to sell things off craigslist and I will have full access to his digital camera.

I really need to think about future non-consumable purchases (of course consumable purchases need to be thought about as well). I do not really need any more books. I have a lot of clothes. I do not think I could really give up buying clothes, but I am going to think about my purchases a lot more.

One thing I see myself buying stuff is with my rubber stamps and paper craft materials. This is a nice hobby, but I will have to set a strict budget for this.

How Much Should I Spend to Furnish my House?

After our wedding, my fiance and I will be moving into a house. A 3 bedroom house with a living room, dining room, and kitchen. We have both been living with our parents.

This is the furniture we are taking with us from our childhood homes:
Full size bed for our room
Twin bed for guest room
large dresser
2 or 3 small dressers (2 of them are part of a bedroom set for a girl)
1 nightstand
1 small desk
1 large desk
1 papasan chair
1 tall bookcase
1 short bookcase
1 desk chair
1 small tv (13")
1 large tv (27") , but really really old
1 TV stand
1 rug
2 lamps

Things we have gotten from other sources:
1 leather couch (free from a friend)
1 side table (on loan)
1 Dining room table & 4 chairs ($55 off craigslist)

Now we need to figure out what else we need and how much we want to spend. There is room in the kitchen and dining room for a table, but I don't think we need another table.

I think we need:
some lamps and/or lamp shades
coffee table
another chair (recliner type)

Other than that, I think we should be pretty set. We will end up needing lots of other small household items like extension cords, tools, wall decoration, cleaning supplies, etc.

Making this list has made me feel a lot better since I don't think we have anything big to buy. I think I will tell my fiance that we have a $500-$1000 budget on things for our new home (this includes the $55 we already spent on the dining room table). I will talk it over with him to come up with a solid number.

Things I Wish I Had Done Differently on my Wedding

I think it might be a little bit early to be posting on this since the wedding hasn't happened yet! However there are a few things I wish I had done differently or put more consideration into:

1. Hiring a wedding planner. A good planner is supposed to at the minimum, save you her comission. I think it might have been easier if I had hired one especially since I was so short on time. The main place she may have been able to save me money would be the reception venue.
2. Bought a used dress. I was thinking about wearing my sister's dress, but in the end, I decided that I wanted something different than what she had. There is a used dress store near my home, but I was so busy that I felt the need to order my dress before getting a chance to browse there.
3. Not paid $120 to have my dress made for my height. The dress is still too long by about an inch. I still need to decide if I have time to alter it (and if I want to spend the money).
4. Made stronger suggestions for different bridesmaid dresses. My ladies are going to look lovely, however, everyone had to get their dress altered. The other dresses we were considering were $70 more, but I think they would have been less trouble for everyone and they would have fit better. In the end, one friend's mom is altering 4 of the 6 dresses.
5. Reconsidered our wedding venue. It's really really beautiful, but it required a 200 person minimum. We could have been happy having a wedding with 150 people.
6. Had the wedding and reception at the same place. I think this would have made things easier logistically, but in the end, I wanted to get married in a church.

A Detailed Wedding Budget

Our Wedding Budget - Total Budget $25,000
Currently at: $24,048

Reception: $12,000
Church: $600
Pastor: TBD, probably $500 (friend's father)
Marriage License: $64
Total: $13,164

Clothing and Accessories
Bridal Gown: $840 (includes paying $120 to have gown made to my height, but it is still 1 inch too long)
Other Alterations: $25
Veil: $0, borrowing from sister
Hairpiece: $110
Jewelry (earrings only, already had necklace): $30
Shoes: $90
Wedding Bands: $2000
Hair & Makeup: $820
Tux Rental: $0 (free with a certain number of wedding party rentals)
Pre-wedding pampering: $100
Total: $4015

Cake: $410
Chair Covers: $550
Total: $960

Flowers: $100 (a florist friend is doing the flowers for free, so we are probably going to spend $100 to buy him a gift)
DJ: $400
Photography: $3650
Total: $4150

Invitations (we made our own)
Paper (for invitations, programs, save the date cards, thank you cards: $50
Ribbons $55
Envelopes: $30
Postage for Invitations: $140
Postage for Thank you cards : $65
Postage for Save the Date cards: gift from bridesmaid
Accessories to make invitations: $20
Total: $360

Gifts for Bridesmaids: $310
Gifts for Groomsmen: $250
Gifts for other ceremony participants: $270
Favors: $410
Total: $1240

Flower Girl Baskets (2): $14
Runner: $20
Guest Book: $0, made by sister
Paper for Pictures: $100 (we are going to have a digital camera printer so we can print pictures at the wedding to put into the guest book
Money Box $0, made by sister
Books and Magazines: $25
Total: $159

We saved money by:
1. Being really good friends with a florist. I've been friends with him for about 7 years. I would help him for free when he was busy while I was in college for 3 out of my 4 years (e.g. Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, college graduations) and he always promised he would do my wedding flowers.
2. Not having a videographer. Two friends are going to tape it and then I'll see if I can get someone to edit it.
3. Driving ourselves during the wedding (the fiance and I had some disagreements about this, but I won).
4. Using a semi-professional DJ. He's done many weddings and other events, but it's not his main occupation.
5. Going to a Chinese Bakery to get our cake. We figure no one really cares about it.
6. Making our own invitations. I like doing paper crafts, so this was fun, but time consuming.
7. Having other people make us stuff. My sister made us a really nice guest book. To be honest, the materials alone probably cost about the same as a regular guest book, but ours is super nice.

Some items are still estimates, but this is pretty close to final. I'm sure some other small costs will come up, so we still might go over $25,000, but I'm trying my best to keep us under budget.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

My Money Rules

I read a lot of other personal finance blogs and I don't want to repeat what they say. However, here are some of my financial principles that I live by:

1. Never put anything on your credit card if you cannot pay it off that month.
2. Save as much money as you can.
3. Make all your savings automatic so you are not tempted to spend it.
4. Max out your Roth IRA as early in the year as possible.
5. Max out your 401K, if you can.
6. Do not be ashamed to live with your parents - it can save you a LOT of money.
7. Buy everything you can on sale. Become friendly with the sales staff and find out when your favorite stores have sales.
8. Do not buy something you do not need or will not use because it is on sale.
9. Open a high yield savings account for your emergency fund. Fund it with at least $5,000 or 3 months living expenses, whichever is higher.
10. Be willing to splurge once in a while. It's no fun to always be on a budget, even better, put the splurge in your budget.

There are many more rules, but ten is a nice and even number.

Gym Membership for Life

My fiancé and I had talked about getting new gym memberships. He currently has one to a gym that does not have a location near our new home in SF. I normally do not go to the gym or just use the one at the hotels when I travel. 24 Hour Fitness was the obvious choice for us, but we needed to know more information about the prices. 24 Hour is especially good for me since I travel, allowing me to use the gym while I am out in other parts of the country as well.

His friend had gotten a deal where he paid $750 for the first 3 years and $99/year thereafter. This type of membership obviously benefits someone who knows they will be going for a long time and the club benefits from those who get decide they are going to start working out all the time and then do not stick with it.

Yesterday my fiancé went to the gym with his friend and asked if they had any three-year specials. Here is the deal we received: $600 for the first 3 years and $49/year after that. In the first 3 years, that calculates out to be an average of $200/year and $17/month. In subsequent years, it’s only $4/month. Of course, the benefit for the club is they make their money upfront since we had to pay $600 for each of our memberships yesterday. My fiancé’s friend even thought about switching to the new deal since it would save him money in the long run (after more than 12 years), but he decided not to. We can use all 24 Hour Fitness gyms except for one or two really nice ones, which is fine by us.

That means no excuses from me that the gym is too expensive. It is now a sunk cost for us, so we better use it and enjoy it! It also means that 24 Hour needs to stay in business and we need to work out A LOT to decrease our cost per use.

Comparative monthly gym prices (note this might be out of date since it was 2 years ago when I was looking to join a gym and these gyms are mostly in NYC):

NYSC: $80 discounted all-clubs access

Reebok Sports Club in NYC: $180 - the NICEST gym I have ever been to. What other gym has a 40 foot rock climbing wall?

Equinox Fitness, mostly in NYC : $100

Monday, August 21, 2006

Money in the Mail

This past week has been a very fruitful one. I try to find different ways of making money, then I often forget that I'm supposed to receive something. On Saturday I received a $50 Amazon gift card for writing 50 reviews for InsiderPages in 2 weeks. It was a special SF Bay Area promotion. I'm not sure if they're still running it. It was pretty time consuming. They ran the promotion earlier and I wrote 2 reviews before giving up.

I also received a $103 voucher for the Microsoft class action lawsuit (I think this might be a California only thing). So that means if I provide $103 worth of receipts for any computer/printer related items, they will send me a refund.


I also received some very generous checks from my relatives as wedding gifts, but that's a separate topic.

Getting Married = New Budget

I've been thinking a lot about how my future husband and I are going to spend our money after we get married. He recently finished school and is still looking for a job. He's in a pretty specialized profession and we want to live in a specific area, so there are only a couple of places where he can work.

I anticipate our combined income to be somewhere between $110K and $150K. I know that's a pretty big range. I know I will be getting a raise and promotion in the first week of September, but I've been told that I won't find out the dollar amount until September, so I am adding my raise into the range.

I'll take the average and assume we will be making $130K. If that is the case, this is how I see our annual budget breakdown:

$30K 401Ks
$13K tithe
$22K taxes (25% on $87K)
$8K Roth IRA
$24K rent (rent should actually be a little bit less, but not much)
$18K misc monthly expenses (inc. utilities, food, gas, student loans etc)
$15K down payment

This brings me to the question - is it more important to max out our retirement savings or save for a downpayment? We already have about $75K saved for a downpayment (remember we live in the Bay Area, so we need quite a bit of $ - we only plan on renting for 1 year since we want to live in SF). I anticipate exiting the workforce, or at least working part-time while raising our kids, so I want to max out my retirement savings while I can. I also plan on living well into my 90's since I had 3 grandparents do that - my grandfather is almost 100!

We will have to figure this out once my fiance actually gets a job and we move into our new place and see what our actual monthly expenses are.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

More Wedding Updates

It's been a long time since I posted since I've been so busy with wedding planning. Right now it looks like we might come in under budget, but I'm not going to count my chickens before they hatch. Our budget is $25,000. We were able to save some money by: getting a wedding cake at a Chinese bakery ($410), not hiring a videographer (one of my friends is going to do it - we might get someone professional to edit it), and buying cheaper wedding rings than we had budgeted. Originally wedding rings was one place we had planned to splurge since it's something we plan to have for the rest of our lives. Our original budget for wedding rings was $3,000 and we ended up getting them for $2,000. Therefore, I think it'll be close, but I'm really trying to push Tony and me into saving money. My fiancé is great since he wants me to have the best, but he encourages me to spend more money! Last weekend, I was picking up a hair clip and then I decided to try on veils. I expected them to be about $150, but they ended up being $75. I was able to stay strong since I knew I had my sister's veil. I liked the veil at the store better, but I wanted to sentimentality of wearing her veil.

We are also having a rehearsal dinner and a pre-wedding BBQ. I am not counting the expenses for those items as part of our wedding budget, but maybe I should. If I counted those expenses, we'd definitely be over $25K.

Since I will be working from home next week, I should get a chance to post more. But expect a 3 week hiatus from the last week of August to mid September as I finish up wedding planning, participate in the wedding, and go on our honeymoon. We're going to Fiji (that is also not part of our $25K budget). If we include the wedding, rehearsal dinner, BBQ, and honeymoon we will probably spend around $32K.

Friday, August 04, 2006

I found $50 (sort of)

Several months ago, my healthcare provider Cinga offered us $50 for doing an online health profile. I did it and promptly forgot about it. Then about a month ago, I was reviewing my pay statements and I saw that I had $50 of imputed income, which I decided was from the health survey. However, I had not seen any money. Well it turns out that they sent the check to my sister's house (I stay there part time and at my mom's part time). It's basically like a free $50 that I found. I am happy about that!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Watch what they charge you at the register

Twice in the past month, my mother and I have been victims of check-out clerk overcharging. The first incident happened about 3 weeks ago at Long's Drug Stores. My mom was getting some vitamins. Afterwards, she felt like something was wrong. We verified the number of items she purchased was the same number that they charged us on the receipt. We decided to go home. Once at home, my mom realized that they charged her twice for one item ($12.99) and didn't charge her for another item ($7.99). I don't think it was purposeful, just human error.

The second incident happened yesterday. We were at Albertson's, a grocery store in our area. We had purchased A LOT of items since everything was 70% off. As part of their strategy, they are closing some of their underperforming Northern California stores. My mom also had a coupon for $6 off $60 and since everything was at least 70% off, we wanted to make sure we spent at least $60. We ended up getting a lot of marinades, sauces, and soups - mostly non perishable items. The most expensive thing we got, was some frozen hot wings. We purchased two, but the clerk charged us for 3. Luckily I was reviewing the screen and caught that. It was the most expensive thing we purchased. Originally priced at 7.99, purchased at $2.40.

Overall once everything was scanned, the screen read $326. Once the discounts and our $6 off coupon was factored in, we spent $93.

Monday, July 24, 2006


I hate budgeting. I hate keeping track of what I spend. Instead, I just automatically save what I need to (direct deposit to 4 different accounts) and ONLY spend what's left. It seems to work for me. I frequently log into my bank and credit card accounts to make sure I have enough money in my bank account to cover my credit card account. However, with the additional wedding expenses, it's a bit harder to manage. I need to categorize expenses on my credit card into wedding / non wedding related items and make sure I DO NOT transfer more money that what I spent on wedding related items. If there's ever a month when I give my credit card a lot of exercise, I'm usually able to pull back a little in the next month so it all evens out.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Semi Social Consciousness

I absolutely love cities. They are so convenient. As someone who hates to drive and is somewhat socially conscious (well to be honest, I'm only socially conscious when it is convenient to me or if it promotes something else I already believe in), living near public transportation is key. As an example of my social consciousness - I could not see myself getting an SUV anytime soon (maybe after I have kids) since they are such gas guzzlers. However, I love renting SUVs. This also may be related to my frugality. I wouldn't want to pay for the gas for an SUV, but when I rent, it's all reimbused back to me.

I remember reading an article in the New Yorker two or three years ago about NYC. If you look at the amount of pollution it produces relative to its square footage, it is astronomical. However if you divide the amount of pollution by its population, you find that it produces the least amount of pollution per person. I just loved the convenience of the city and knowing that I wasn't hurting the environment too much.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Wins and Losses for the Day

A review of my day:
1. Win: did not stay at home by myself. The SF Bay Area is having a heat wave. If I had stayed at home, I would need to turn on the A/C for the whole downstairs of the house. Instead I ran some errands and did some shopping. I stopped by Starbucks since my boss wanted me to do some work. However when I told him I was at Starbucks, he decided he didn't want me to work on it since I'm in a public place.
2. Win: $4.20 spent on cold drink at Starbucks. I was thinking about driving home, but see #1. Also I am meeting some friends later so hanging out at Starbucks lets me save about 30-40 miles of driving. While I could have had the same benefit by staying at the mall, I didn't want to tempt myself further.
3. Win: Did not buy anything from the luggage/travel store. Next to Starbucks is a decently priced travel store. There are some travel items that I have been coveting from Eagle Creek such as their Pack It Cubes and Pack It Folders. I thought about it and decided that I could hold off for a little bit. I am going to move onto another project so I don't know when I'm going to be put onto a traveling project again. If I am put on another long term traveling project, I will definitely invest in the Eagle Creek traveling items.
4. Neutral: Bought some potential wedding shoes. They cost $75 and I don't love them. But they could save me from having to go shopping again.
5. Neutral: Went to a bridal store over someone's garage. I was looking for a headpiece or veil, however, the prices were a lot more than I had expected. My sister had gotten her veil at the same store 3 years ago for a lot less. This was negative since it was a waste of gas, however, I am glad I went. Also it helped me decide on what kind of stuff I want to put in my hair (now I just need to find some clips that I like)
6. Neutral/Loss: Bought some capri pants for $30. I have been looking for capri pants for some time. I would have categorized this as a win except for the fact that I left my gift card at home. I'm going to try to see if I can get the money back on my credit card and use my gift card. I was really mad at myself when I realized that I forgot my giftcard.

All in all, not a bad day so far.

I'm about to go and meet some friends for dinner now, so hopefully that won't be too expensive.

Discrepency in my 401K

Last night I was reviewing my 401K statements and pay stubs for the past year. I know I should review this on a more consistent basis. I noticed one discrepency. I contribute about $570 to my 401K every pay cycle (twice a month), however, there was one contribution for $460 in the month of June. I also had 4 deposits in the month of June. The deposit date into my 401K account is not always the exact date that I get paid - it's typically a few days later. So I tried to call Merrill Lynch. Of course, it was after hours and they were closed. At first, I thought they had deposited about $100 less than they owed me. After continuing to review the statements, I realized that I appeared to have an extra paycheck for June. However, when I actually clicked and looked at my paycheck, I saw that it was a test document. So in reality, I now believe that Merrill Lynch gave me an extra $460.

I was dreading having to call them to clear this up.

In a situation like this, would you call the company up and let them know or would you let them (potentially) figure it out and let you know?

Friday, July 21, 2006

What my time is worth

Laws of Finance recently posted that his time is worth $150/hour. That is how much the law firm he is interning at is charging for his services. Working in a professional services firm as a consultant, I can very easily see how much the client is being charged for my services. I also handle the fees, expenses, and billing of our project. I think this information may be somewhat sensitive, so I will give a ballpark figure. My time is billed to the client at a rate that is slightly lower, but in the same range as that of Laws of Finance. However, when I get promoted (and a raise), my rate should be slightly higher than the billing rate of Laws of Finance, but in a similar range. Both my current rate and my new rate will be between $100/hr and $200/hr.

Now imagine if I were an independent contractor. Then when if I billed the client $150/hr that is what I really would be making!

Of course in consulting, we actually work a lot more hours than we bill. So our rates are not as outrageous as they seem. While my rate is similar to Laws of Finance, I know when I bill 9 hours/day, I really work about 11 hours/day.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Promotion and Salary/Raise Discussion

This calgirl is happy since she has been promised a promotion. After the formal review process, I received the highest possible rating out of 5 (I rated myself the second highest possible rating). The scale is basically: bad, fair, acceptable, good, excellent (I have renamed the ratings). I have been told that 70% of employees receive an acceptable rating and it's pretty rare to get an excellent rating, so I'm happy.

I also talked to my supervisors about my salary concerns, both my immediate supervisor who doesn't know my salary and our overall supervisor who has access to salary info. I expressed my concerns in a very diplomatic way. The overall supervisor admitted that based on the information I provided, my salary was on the lower end (it appears to be lower than some people who are a level below me). We talked about what happened when I was hired and he asked if I was given what I asked for or more than what I asked for. I was given what I asked for and he was surprised. He said they typically try to go a few thousand above what someone asks for so they come into the company happy. I was happy to come into the company at what I asked for at the time, but after further reflection, it was less than I should have asked for.

He said salary discussions have not happened yet, but with the promotion, it should be more than made up for. So I have high hopes for a large raise. The unfortunate thing is at a large company, sometimes someone will say that they will try to do something and then be unable to deliver on that promise based on pressure or restrictions from above.

With my fiance, I have determined that I would be satisfied, but not happy with a $5,000 raise, Happy with a $10,000 raise, and ecstatic with more than a $10,000 raise. Based on the salary information I have on other co-workers, I expect to receive a raise around $10,000, but I'm not counting on it until I get official notice. Anything less than $5,00 would upset me and potentially cause me to look for a new job.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Banking Statements When You No Longer Bank There

I used to bank at Chase (aka JP Morgan Chase) when I lived in NY. I closed my account some time ago, probably in November or December of 2005. At that time, I transferred all of my money out. However, I earn some interest on my money that was credited after the account was closed. 2 cents to be exact. Now I STILL continue to get account statements, detailing the progress of my 2 cents. It has been at least 6 months, if not more since I closed the account. I was on the Chase website earlier since I have a Chase credit card. I decided to try and contact them to let me know that they can have my 2 cents or to ask them to transfer it to my credit card payment, but I couldn't get the link for "Contact Us" to work. Oh well.

I'm a consultant, I should parlay this knowledge into a proposal to Chase.

Friday, June 30, 2006


I signed up for BzzAgent through Jane Dough some time ago. Today I signed up for a mini-campaign about Seth Minkin, an artist. Check out the link below for pictures of his work on BzzAgent.

10 Days Bzz Agent

BzzAgent is a really interesting company. They send you samples of stuff to promote (they call this participating in a campaign). And then give you points for telling people about the stuff. The points can be redeemed for merchandise related your campaigns. You choose what to promote, so it should only be stuff you're interested in.

Send me an email at calgirlfinance at if you're interested in finding out more.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

My Hobby Habits

I am a dabbler. Whenever I pick up a new hobby, I get really into it and want to do it all the time. However, I have a hard time keeping up the motivation. Previous hobbies of mine include knitting, making beaded jewelry, rubber stamping, card making & writing letters. This means I have a lot of materials to participate in the hobbies above. Currently I still enjoy card making and rubber stamping (mostly for card making). My problem with hobbies is I spend a decent amount of money on the hobby and then I lose interest.

Another hobby of mine is personal finance, however, I don't really like to get into the details of it. I really like reviewing my networth since it's on a positive track, but usually I am too busy or too lazy to keep good records. Yet for me, I know that the more I participate in something, the more I get out of it and the more I enjoy it (usually).

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Follow up to Pre-Marital Financial Information

Back in April, I posted about the financial information I knew about my future husband. I am happy to say that he is more of the clueless type, rather than the evasive type. He wasn't withholding information about his finances from me, rather he just didn't really know the information.

After some continued discussion, we decided that he should provide me with his past tax returns. While this is not a complete financial picture, it was something he could easily provide. He provided the information to me, allowing me to get a better sense of his financial picture. We joked that I was "auditing" him. One of the main things was I wanted to find out where all of his different accounts were. Unfortunately we do not have any accounts at the same institutions, which means someone will have to get used to a new company.

For me, it wasn't so much that I wanted to know everything about my fiance's finances. Rather I wanted him to be willing to share the information with me, even if it took some researching on his part.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

My Networth

One difference between myself and many of the pf blogs I enjoy reading is I typically don't disclose my numbers whereas they do. While I do not want to disclose my salary, the reason I do not disclose my networth on a regular basis is due to the fact that I do not calculate it as regularly as some others. Today I decided it was time to put the numbers into excel and see what came out.

I can't say that I'm pleased or displeased with the numbers. The recent stock market woes have put a dent in the numbers of many people. I am no exception. The last time I calculated my networth was in the beginning of May. At that time, I determined my hard dollar assets minus liabilities equaled $43,158.61. This number did have some estimates since I couldn't access either of my 401K accounts at the time.

Today my networth is $46,223.72. I am pleased with the positive jump, however, hidden in the positive jump is my investment losses. On a monthly basis, I normally save over $3000 (in my 401K, investment fund, emergency fund and wedding savings account). Since the period of change was over 3 paychecks, it shows about $1500 in investment losses.

Oh well, that's how it goes.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Is there a need for so many pf blogs?

Lately I have been thinking about the proliferation of personal finance blogs. I began my blog right around when the number of pf blogs seemed to explode. While I do get a decent number of hits (I average just under 30 a day), I wonder if the pf blog community is becoming too large. There any many blogs written by people with similar experiences at similar places in life. Is the space becoming too crowded? Are experienced old voices and promising new voices getting lost in the shuffle?

I have thought about whether my own blog adds any value to the stratosphere of the web. My conclusion on the status of pf blogging is the act of blogging is therapeutic. Blogging about my finances allows me to express myself and provides me with more accountability. It's true that I have not revealed all the specific details many other bloggers share on a monthly basis. However, I still feel the need to share specific ups and downs with my readers. Thus while my blog probably adds very little actual value to the community, it provides me (and hopefully some readers) with some insights, accountability, and information.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

How do you feel about your job?

Being a pretty young individual, I have only had two full-time jobs in my life. My current job as a consultant and my prior job working for one of the largest banks in the country.

Currently I like my job. I don't love it, but I appreciate it. The work is interesting, I get to work with great people, I face challenges every day, and I enjoy traveling.

I cannot imagine having a job that I absolutely love. If you have a job like that, what do you do and why do you love it so much?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


I first heard about the latte factor from David Bach. Since then, I have been much more aware of my expenditures on coffee. I do my best not to go to Starbucks, but I have been know to grab a coffee with a co-worker. The thing about my job is we get a meal allowance, so it seems that we shouldn't care about the money we spend at Starbucks. However, any money I do not spend, I get to keep. This morning I went with my co-worker to Starbucks, but I am happy to say that I didn't get anything. Yippee.

There are so many people in line in the morning every day. I cannot believe that there are 10-20 people in front of us all the time. I really feel that I should research investment into Starbucks' stock. It's seems that it should be have a high profit margin, it's addictive, and it's legal . . .

Monday, June 12, 2006

Wow . . . the NY Times has some great articles

Apparently this past Sunday, there was a special Sunday edition of The NY Times (go to the most emailed section). I went over to My Open Wallet to see if Madame X had made any comments yet. She hadn't had a chance to read the articles yet, but she did confirm for me that it was a special money themed Sunday magazine.

There are some great articles in there from student loan forgiveness to the economy in general. However, the article that really caught my attention was the one about online poker. The articled detailed the life of one college student who went so far as to rob a bank in order to pay back some of his debts. I could definitely see myself getting addicted to something like that. I believe I naturally have an addictive personality. Since I know this about myself, I haven't gotten too addicted to anything. I could see myself getting addicted to blogging, however, I don't have enough time to devote to it.

Friday, June 09, 2006

More Work = Less Time Devoted to Finances and Less Blogging

These past few weeks have been extremely busy at work, thus I haven't had a time to review my finances in some time. I get to work around 8 or 8:30, leave between 6:30 and 7:3o and typically need to do another 2 hours of work once I get home. If only I were hourly. =)

Well the good thing about my job is I typically have more free time on fridays. And for while my credit card balance for these past 2 months have been higher than normal (I still pay them off every month), somehow I have had more money in my checking account to pay those items off. Since I haven't devoted too much time to my finances, I'm not sure what's causing this fluctuation.

I kept on seeing interesting articles/surveys in USA Today about retirement this week. Some patterns I noticed . . .people are starting to save for retirement much earlier and younger people expect to retire earlier than those who are closer to retirement.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Internet everywhere

Earlier this week I received a Verizon wireless PC card (Kyocera KPC650) for my laptop. I'm not sure if most people know about this technology yet. It allows you to get internet access anywhere Verizon has a signal - all for one low feee of $60-$70/month (this is a corporate rate and paid for by my company). This is great since it means I will be able to go online every night! Before I had to pay for internet at my hotel so I didn't want to go on every night and pay the $10. I felt that I shouldn't do it if it wasn't business related. Now I can go on whenever I want -at my hotel, at the office, at the airport, at home, etc.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Free Upgrade

I'm am super excited since I just got the largest hotel room! It's much much bigger than my old apartment that I had in New York and probably bigger than the place I will move to once I get married.

I stay at this hotel every week. For some reason they didn't have my rewards number on file, so the check-in girl looked extra hard to get me a good room.

So this week rather than getting just the standard king size bed, I got a 1 bedroom suite with a living room, dining table, french-like doors, 2 tvs, king size bed, shower, and bathtub. Yippee!

The lesson here - it helps to be nice to people!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

How much do you spend on wedding gifts and shower gifts?

Yesterday my fiance and I attended our first couple shower. It was the first co-ed shower I had ever been to. We decided to purchase something off the couple's registry that totaled about $50. Most attendees were family members. There were only 5 non-family members (1 of the 5 was the best man and another one was his girlfriend).

Normally I spend around $50- $75 on the wedding gift. If my fiance and I are giving a joint gift, we will double that amount.

On shower gifts, I normally spend between $25-$50, depending on how close the friend is and what I can find.

As a soon to be married couple, I think money would be the most useful gift for any couple, even though it is considered tacky. My old college roommate said that she thought you had to give more when you give money versus a present. I actually probably do the opposite and spend more on a gift than I would give in cash. I also always am on the lookout for registry items on sale, but typically I am only able to get sale items at Macys. I still prefer the act of shopping and wrapping at item to give to the couple, rather than giving them a check despite that fact that I would prefer money. I just love to shop and wrap presents.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Tax Refund - Not Direct Deposited

Okay, so I know everyone in the PF world is done talking about taxes and tax refunds. This year I got a fairly large refund - my withholding adjustment was not enough! I ended up getting quite a bit back- $400 from one state, $80 from another state, and around $1700 federal. Well I signed up for direct deposit (going to my ING Direct account) and I got checks back from all three entities!

I copied and pasted my direct deposit info from work (my paycheck gets direct deposited there twice a month) and double checked the numbers, so I'm not sure what happened.

I am a bit confused about how my tax return ended up being as large as it was, but I think it might be due to the capital gains losses I ended up taking. That really increase my NY state refund and maybe my federal one as well.

I will have to review my current tax withholdings and the irs withholding calculator soon.

Is becoming too elite?

If it weren't for I would probably have 0 visitors. I got the temporary gold star for 2 months for having the blogroll. I would donate to since I think it's a great website, however, the privacy concerns prevent me from doing so. Are other donation methods accepted?

I think it's a great boon to have friends of posts highlighted, but to me it also strengthens the divide between the members and the nonmembers. It makes membership more elite and signifies the divide between friends and non-friends.

I want to be part of the in crowd too.

Credit Card problems . . .

This is not about my own credit card problems - rather it's about a front page article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. Americans are paying more of their credit card debt down, which is reducing the profits of the credit card companies. Go American people!

Typically in a time of rising interest rates, credit card debt will start to creep up. Hasn't happened yet.

Don't worry. We have no need to feel sorry for the credit card companies. They still make money off each transaction we make and annual fees (don't get a card with an annual fee).

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The $100 Jeans

The most I have ever spent for a pair of pants is $100. That money wasn't spent on suit pants or anything of the sort. Instead, I splurged on a pair of Lucky Brand Jeans. $100 is a lot for me to spend on any article of clothing, especially something non-work related. But I couldn't resist. After searching on and off for 2 years, I finally found a pair that fit well, wasn't too long (serious problem when you're short), and was a good color. Since I purchased them earlier this year, I've worn them every week, several times a week. I've probably worn them about 50 times already.

Right now the price per wear is getting much lower. I found that whenever I used to buy clothes from cheaper stores (like H&M), I would wear the article once or twice and then decide that I didn't really like it. However when I buy clothes from more expensive places, I will wear them again and again. So for me frugality lies in making the right choices to buy things that will really have lasting value.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Friends, Roommates, & Money

I had the pleasure of spending half of my New York City week with my friend M. M is a very generous friend and had allowed me to stay with her rent-free in her mid-sized studio apartment 2 years ago. Originally after grad school, I decided to move back to California. But after about 4 months of being unemployed, missing my boyfriend (now fiance), and wishing I were back in NY, I decided to move back. M graciously offered to host me for as long as necessary. It took me some time to find a job, but then even after I found a job, M ask me to stay for a bit longer. All in all, I was there a full 6 months.

During the week, when I referred to M as an old roommate, she mentioned that she never considered me a roommate since I never paid rent. (I did offer to pay rent on more than one occassion). This comment caused me to reflect on our relationship. Being roommates can strain a friendship, depending on the financial situation of those involved and the timliness of monetary reimbursement.

Since I never paid a dime of rent, I found myself bending over backwards to accomodate M, leaving on the weekends, packing her lunches, doing the chores, etc. In the end, after I moved out to my own apartment, I also gave M a substantial monetary gift (I gave her the choice of us going on a trip together or her going on a trip by herself - she decided to go to London). This non-obligatory arrangement allowed us to both be generous, in different ways. In the end, I think it strengthened our friendship and allowed us to grow closer.

Friday, May 19, 2006


Rihgt now I am NYC and having an awesome time! However, the budget it taking a beating. More on my trip will be posted on Sunday

Thursday, May 11, 2006

My FICO Score

Last weekend I decided to pull one of my credit reports from For some reason I always have trouble loading that page. I'm not 100% sure that I have the right link, but it's the link on Bankrate and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) website. Well anyway, over the weekend the link worked. I have heard of a couple of strategies of how to best utilize your free credit reports. In the first one, you review credit reports from all 3 of the major agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) at the same time. Using the second strategy, you review one every 4 months so you can check to make sure that no fraud has occurred. I decided to go with the second strategy. The last credit report I pulled was in September of 2005, so this report was a bit overdue.

Since I'm thinking about buying a house in the next couple of months, I decided to go for the sales pitch and buy my FICO score as well. That cost $8. I know I can get all 3 for about $40. I was happy to see that my score was 781. Last time I pulled my credit scores was in 2004, when I was looking to rent an apartment in NYC. At that time my score was 730-760. I see this as validation that I am moving in the right direction.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Quick decisions about buying a house

Today my co-worker informed me of a dilemma he was facing in which he had to decide by tomorrow whether or not he wanted to buy a townhouse (worth around $600K). The townhouse was owned by his future sister-in-law who had just purchased a new house. Due to some sort of tax implications (I didn't get all the details) she has to put her house on the market tomorrow or sell the house to him and his fiancee. If my co-worker and his fiancee decide to purchase the house directly, they would save the commission ($36K).

I directed him to Bankrate, since they have a lot of good calculators on how much house you can afford. After punching in the numbers, he told me that he cannot afford the house without help. I will get an update later this week on his final decision.

As we were talking about this, we talked about how many people we know end up getting help from parents for the down payment. I'm not sure if this phenomenon just occurs frequently in the Bay Area, or if this is what always happens in middle-upper-middle class families . Are these people getting the help spoiled or lucky?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Friends with Class

Madame X at My Open Wallet has a great
post about a couple of articles in the NY Times. The post I linked to discusses the differences among friends with vastly different amounts of money. I think the issue of socieconomic inequality amongst friends is something that is starting to develop around us. As my friends and I get older and more established in our careers, we are starting to move apart in terms of our finances. I have a friend who just graduated from law school, working at one of the big law firms in SF. I'm sure she's making around $170K based on some recent articles I've read. I also have friends who are social workers, still in school, etc., getting further into debt or making a much smaller incomes. Right now we're still fresh in our careers, but I don't know how things will change as more of us get married and start having families. Will the economic differences drive us apart? Will we still be able to remain friends? As for myself, I think I am in the middle. I'm not making a lot of money right now in my career, but I have the potential to make a great living if I stay in my current occupation. I doubt I will work in consulting long term. I see my fiance and myself as being the "poor" relatives in relation to our other family members, but that's okay with us. We'll be doing things we enjoy, even if it's not as economically rewarding.

Friday, May 05, 2006

TurboTax's Refund Bonus Program is a hassle

I filed my taxes late this year(finished then 4/15/06) and I decided to get some gift cards through Turbo Tax's Refund Bonus program. You order some gift cards at a discount - typically 10% off the face value of the card plus a shipping fee of $15-20. Today I got the 5 gift cards I had ordered via FedEx. I ordered 2 Bed Bath and Beyond gift cards worth $25 each, 1 Starbucks card worth $25, and 2 American Express cards worth $200 each. I was super excited since it meant I could get my friend's wedding gift before visiting her this weekend in New York. The American Express gift cards are only valid at certain stores, but that includes some stores that my friends commonly register at (e.g. Crate and Barrel). I decided to check the balance of my gift card before driving down to Crate and Barrel. Good thing I did since my cards have a balance of $0!!! I'm glad that I didn't waste my time and the gas driving to the mall (I do have some other things to do in the area, but they're not urgent).

Apparently they haven't been activated yet and it will take 3-5 business days to resolve the issue. I was extremely frustrated and disappointed. Since taking on my new job, I am lacking in patience since my time at home is so limited.

Thumbs down to Amex and Turbo Tax for this snafu. I also checked the balances on my other gift cards and they are what they should be.

Good Tip to Save on Your Wedding

It seems that there are a quite a few Bloggers out there in a similar situation as myself - engaged to get married or seriously considering it. My fiance and I were able to find a good way to save money on some wedding costs. We are renting chair covers (which may be considered a waste by some) and so are our friends who are getting married in June. We simply asked vendors if we could have a discount if we referred someone else. Originally most vendors would give us a discount, but when we pushed, most were willing to give our friends a discount as well. We ended up with a 10% discount for both of us, saving each of us $60.

In looking for a wedding cake, we've asked the same question and most people have been willing to say yes. This would probably work with almost any other vendor as well.

In the wedding industry, there isn't much incentive to do a good job since most brides are one-time customers. However when you bring you friends into the mix, there is more incentive to make sure you're a happy customer.

April Goals - Follow up

In the beginning of April, I posted here about several things that I wanted to accomplish that month. I think one of the most important thing about a goal is to track how well you progress.

Here is my follow-up.

1. Finish my taxes. Finished 4/15
2. Get all the addresses for my save the date cards Finished 4/5 - As a follow up goal, I need to do a quality control review of the labels I printed versus the addresses I accumulated. I was using mail merge and I think I may have missed a couple.
3. Donate clothes from my closet Not done, will try to do tomorrow
4. Donate my car Not done due to delays, appointment to have car picked up 5/9/06
5. Get my financial house in order. Done
6. Tithe at least $700. Not done - however I just got my federal tax refund($1700) so I should be able to apply almost all of that.

As you can see, I achieved success on some of my goals, but not all of them. A midpoint check might have helped me along in getting all of them accomplished. None of them were overly difficult. Once I wrote the list, I largely forgot about what was in it.

David Bach talks about the importance of making a list of financial goals and placing them somewhere you can see them everyday. This will help you remember what you're working for and help you to get on track to achieve your goals.

Later today I will come up with some goals for May. On Monday I will be traveling to work in LA as usual, however, I will be going to New York City for 10 days and then back to work in LA for 4 days. This means I will be leaving home 4/8/06 and returning 4/25/06. It might make it difficult to accomplish some goals, but I have to accomplish some things this month!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Festival of Frugality #21

Wandering Indian Monk has posted the
21st Festival of Frugality. This is special to me since this is the first time I've been featured in any sort of festival or carnival.

On that note, Seattle Simplicity has an interesting post on things that she naturally does. This sparked a discussion about soap slivers and hotel soap. Previously I would use 2 bars of soap per hotel visit (one for the shower and one for the sink). Now I have a ziploc baggie that I used to save the soap and I use it weak after weak, giving me 2 additional bars of soap to bring home every week. I started doing this because I wanted to save my hotel soaps to give as part of a bath gift set for a bridal shower I hosted. Now it's just habit.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Why I love staying at hotels

Who doesn't love staying in a hotel? Lucky for me, I get to stay at 3 star/4 star hotels for business 3 nights a week. Since I am always staying in the same hotel, I have become friendly with the staff. I found out that the 3rd floor has upgraded rooms, which I now request upon check in. I usually get it. This means the room has fluffy robes for me to use while I'm staying there in addition to free slippers, body wash, mouthwash, a sewing kit, and the current Newsweek magazine. I love to take this stuff home with me. For my friend's bridal shower, I handed out party favors that consisted of my free toiletries from my hotel stays.

Things I take home every week:
1 pair slippers
6 bars of soap (I get 2 per night and I save my soap from the week before to re-use)
2-3 bottle of shampoo and conditioner (I use one bottle every 2 weeks)
3 bottle of lotion
3 bottles of mouthwash
3 bottles of body wash
3 boot buffers
3 sewing kits
3 body basics kits (cotton swabs, cotton balls, nail file)
3 shower caps
unlimited bottled water - I normally take this to work so I don't actually take any home with me

Friday, April 28, 2006

Getting kicked when you're down

Right now I am so busy! I feel like life just keeps on piling more and more stuff onyo my plate. Now that I'm at home, I never want to leave. We just sold a huge project for work. Yippee. Now we're getting to the hard part - delivering. Plus wedding planning is getting busy and I'm going to New York in 2 weeks for a 10 days vacation (working remotely for 3 of the days). During that time, I am going to fly directly from my client in LA to NY and back to the client so I need to be prepared to be away from home for 3 weeks and working for 2.5 weeks. Will try to post again sometime next week.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

eBay a way for me to save money

After reading about Her Coupon Coup on Make Love, Not Debt, I thought long and hard about type of coupons I could use. Finally I zeroed in on some of my travel expenses - Starbucks and Quiznos. I know most pfbloggers talk about bring lunch to work, but it's simply not a feasible idea for me as a traveling consultant. I only buy Starbucks when I'm out traveling. I ended up getting a gift certificate as a discounted rate. My co-workers and I go to Quiznos at least once a week for lunch - it's the closest lunch place and we all like it better than Subway.

I decided to take a chance and buy some coupons from eBay. I accidentally won 3 auctions, totally $15 with shipping. I now have 58 coupons expiring in December. Each one will save me between $3-$7. I will also split some of the savings with my co-workers. I've used two coupons already. Total savings: $4+$2 (my co-worker saved $4 on this one). After two more weeks, I should definitely break even and then it will be pure savings from then on. Yippee!!

Later I will talk about my Ann Taylor buying strategies.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Awesome Free PDF program

There is a great free pdf program that will allow you to create and edit pdfs. I have been using PDF995 for some time now. You install it and then you can turn all of your files into PDFs. You can also combine pdfs if you download the editor program. When combining files, I did find that I needed to download 2 more programs in addition to the edit program.

This has been such a lifesaver. Since it's free, it's just cheaper than the paid version of Adobe. The only thing is it takes a bit longer to create pdfs and you have to look at their ads. I think it's worth it!

Pre-Marital Financial Information

In less than 5 months, I will be a married woman. I've read all sort of articles on what you should know about your partner's financial condition before tying the knot. It's really hard to get information from my fiance since he doesn't know the information and he doesn't really see a need to get it.

His mom takes care of the finances in his family. Since he's been a student for the past several years, my fiance told me that she's contributed to his Roth IRA. I know she looked up his credit score when it became free for us Californians to do so. She mentioned that he had the highest score of his family (mom, dad, sister, and him) since he had the least number of credit cards I think the main issue is he's too lazy to find the information himself and he trusts his mom to make good decisions.

I know about how much my fiance has in taxable accounts (this is our house fund). I know how much he makes since he doesn't have a job. =) I will know how much he makes when he gets a job.

I do not know his credit score nor the balance of Roth IRA (no 401K). He carries no credit card debt, but tends to be more of a spender rather than a saver. I'm not sure if I need to know more or if I should be content with the knowledge I have.

$191.01 for my cell phone bill!!!!!

I almost had a heart attack when I saw that my cell phone bill was $191.09 for one month. My phone bill is usually around $55/month for two lines. This month, I somehow managed to go over my minutes by 409. $.35 * 409 = $143!!!

The problem is that I have been at home for most of the month, rather than traveling. My mom's home phone doesn't work well when I am using the internet, so I have been using my cell phone for all my calls. I have 1,000 minutes, plus free mobile to mobile (which is great for calling my fiance) and unlimited nights and weekends. Yet somehow I still managed to go over by 409!!!!

Previously when I have gone over my minutes, I have been able to sweet talk them into giving me a credit. I'm not sure if I have a good excuse this time, and I'm not sure if it's worth it to try. . . .

Incidentally - my company pays for most of my cell phone usage. Because of their rules, I normally have to pay about $30/month They will reimburse me for up to $125, so this month I will have to pay about $65.

The lesson here is to check your cell phone minutes during the month if you think you're going to have a high usage month.

I'm excited . . . .

that my site meter number is higher than my clicks number on I had myself added to before I added my site meter. This means that some other readers are finding me elsewhere, I have returning visitors, or people are clicking off my comments! All of the other clicks can't be coming from myself.

I've been a bit lax on the posting last week and I think that is how my typical schedule is going to be. When at traveling for work, we have to pay for internet at the hotel we stay at. Normally I pay once or twice a week. We actually might move to a cheaper hotel with free internet. The cheaper hotel is definitely not as nice, but I think my project manager is going to have us stay there to save money. I would care if it's my own money, but since it's not, I want to stay at the nicer hotel!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Saving Money on the Movies

Of course the best way to save money is to not go. But for those of you who can't wait for it to come out on video, here are some places to get discounted tickets. When I lived in NYC, I couldn't believe it was $10 to buy a ticket (it was $7-$8 in the Bay Area). That weaned me off being the first to see movies. Some of these tickets have special restrictions, like the money can't be too new.

1. Work - at my brother-in-law's company they will sell you discounted tickets
2. School - if you're a student in college, there is sometimes a student life center that will sell discounted tickets.
3. Working Advantage or Student Advantage have discounted tickets. Be careful of shipping! I'm not sure if your company has to pay in order for you to participate in the program
4. The Entertainment book. Get a copy for half off and half price shipping here.
5. From Costco. Not sure if other discount wholesalers have movie tickets, but it's worth a try.

Any one else know of a good place to get discounted movie tickets?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

More Weekend Wedding Thoughts

Immediately after the recessional, the wedding party was milling around in the courtyard. Then I looked over at the bride's father. He was wiping away tears. Simultaneously all 4 bridesmaids and the bride started crying. See that made me remember what's important in life and it also made me long for my lost relationship with my father. I don't think he will be invited to my wedding.

After my parents got divorced while I was in college, my father wrote me a letter every month and sent me a check (this past part of the divorce agreement). For graduation, I got a check for much more than I expected. Then I moved to NYC and my contact with my father grew more and more infrequent. I don't think I've seen my father in the past 3 years (ever since I started dating my fiance). Part of the reason I don't want to get in contact with my father is because there is still a lot of bitterness in my mother over their relationship regarding the things he did, the way he treated her, and the mistakes (financial) that he made.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I had a great weekend

This weekend was so much fun! It's awesome to be a bridesmaid in a wedding where you really care about the bride and groom and have a lot of mutual friends in common with them. On Saturday, my friend said to me at the end of the evening "you've been a really big help today" I could tell that she really meant it and I'm glad! Having been in a wedding party before and being an upcoming bride, I think the most important thing a honor attendant can do it make the bride or groom's life easier. Also since I was helping to clean up, I get to keep all the tulle (the white lace-like fabric) that they used to decorate the aisle. I asked my friend what she wanted me to do with it and she said she didn't care, so I asked if I could have it. Good deal!

Of the three other bridesmaids, one of them has paid me back (the one I don't really know). I'm pretty sure the other 2 are planning on paying me back as well since they both mentioned it.

Since I'm back on the job and at the client site, not sure how much I will be able to blog, but I will try to do so at least a couple times a week!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

My Biggest Financial Mistakes

Seeing Financial Reflection's recent post on money mistakes made me think about my own mistakes. I am lucky that I haven't made any large financial mistakes that have put me into debt. However, I do think there are a few mistakes that I made that has set me back financially.

The first mistake I made was accepting my first "real" job post college/grad school without negotiating. I had been unemployed for some time, originally looking for work in the nonprofit world. When I decided to try to apply for some business jobs, I got the first one I applied for. When presented with the offer, I was ecstatic to have a job offer from a company with an excellent reputation. The salary was higher than I would have made at a non-profit, but nothing to write home about. In hindsight, I realize that those in my group were not paid that well, me especially.

I was doing a great job, however, there were some management changes. With these new changes, came new responsibilities for me. I decided to ask for a raise. The mistake I made here was not writing down what I wanted to say and presenting my new boss with the reasons why he should give me a raise. I was told that I would have to wait until the end of the year. I was already unhappy with my job and the management changes, so I decided to accelerate my search. In hindsight, this wasn't that bad of a mistake. It allowed me to find a position at my current company, where I am happy and I think I have the opportunity for much more upward mobility.

The next big mistake I made was not negotiating a higher salary at my current position. I think I was hired at the right level (hoping to get promoted in June and my boss has expressed support for this as well), but at the lowest salary for my level. Once again, I was euphoric about getting this new position and the opportunities it would afford me. That blindsided me into making a hasty decision and giving up some benefits (starting salary, relocation costs, signing bonus). Since my new job provided less benefits that my first job, I actually don't think I even got a pay increase in changing jobs.

As you can see, this is a pattern of never asking for what I know I am worth. While to some people, this might seem petty, but over the course of my career, it can add up to several hundred thousand dollars since a lot of raises are decided as a percentage of base salary (rather than a dollar amount raise). I am hoping to make up for lost ground in this upcoming year (hopefully mid-year and end of the year).

There have been other financial mistakes I have made, but none that have impacted me as much as the items listed above. Some other mistakes

- Moving to NYC and paying $1,000/month plus utilities for a tiny bedroom in a 3 bedroom place -my room couldn't even fit a full size bed in it. Luckily I was offered campus housing next semester and I was able to pay about $700/month for everything (rent, high speed, electricity).
- Holding my money in cash after the stock market crash. My mom picked out several mutual funds for me during the dot com boom. Since I bought many funds at their peak, I ended up losing several thousand dollars - probably more than half my net worth. That made me gun shy to buy anything else, but the best time to buy is when the market is down.
- Not maxing out my Roth IRA each year, even though I had the money to do so

There have been several other choices that I have made that have hurt me financially. I do not consider all of them mistakes. Many of them were based on choices I made, which in hindsight proved to be the wrong thing to do. However at that time, more education or more knowledge about personal finances would not have swayed me to make a different decision.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Millionaires Only

I saw this article in this morning's paper. In the state of California, you need to have several millions in order to even have a shot of winning the governor's race. I guess if you have that much money, you might as well try to be one of the most powerful politicians in the U.S. It's also a good starting ground to becoming president since California is such a large and well known state.

Not sure how much I will get to post between now and Sunday. Hopefully I will have time to do at least one tomorrow or Sunday. It's so great to have some readers!

Expensive Weekend up Ahead

This is the weekend where I will be a bridesmaid in a good friend's wedding. I can tell that I will be spending quite a bit of money. Here is an estimate of what I will be spending:

Leaving tonight to drive down to LA.
Dinner tonight: $0 - finance is going to make us all sandwiches
Breakfast tomorrow: $0 - will eat at friend's place
Lunch tomorrow: $10
Dinner tomorrow: $20 (wedding related)
Hotel tomorrow: $50 (wedding related)
Friday lunch $10
Saturday makeup $50 (wedding related)
Saturday hair $50 (wedding related)
Saturday lunch $10
Sunday lunch $10
Sunday dinner $20 (expensed)

Total $230

Actually not as bad as I first imagined. Hopefully things won't end up being more expensive than this!

Blog Updates

Last night, I spent a lot of time updating my blog and I discovered blogrolling. OMG, this makes things so much easier! I added a bunch of blogs that I read and I will probably be adding some more soon. Any other tips out there for a new blogger like myself? Are there any services that you pay for? Do you think it's worth it? I know readership is low on my site, but if anyone has suggestions, I would appreciate it! But please, no hard suggestions that require me to do the coding myself!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

All Amazoned Out

Since I've been a customer for Amazon for years, I thought it would be nice if they gave me something back. I experimented with their different links and I think I'm happy with how this looks. To be honest, one of the reasons there are so many Amazon links is I need to fill up some of the side space on my blog. I was going to have 2 area with book pictures - I didn't mind the look since I love books, but then I decided my site would be too Amazon and not enough calgirlfinance.

As I learn more about blogging and the tools that come with it, I will add in more links and maybe take out some of the Amazon stuff. Is there anything missing on my blog that you would like to see?

Great Tips for Frugal Living

I'm not going to provide my own tips, rather I'm going to mention a website I haven't seen any other PF Blogger mention (although I have seen one PF Blogger contribute articles). Maybe everyone already knows about it so there's nothing new to say. The website is the Dollar Stretcher

I found this website when I was in grad school and at my lowest point financially. Granted I still had a positive net worth, but I was bleeding money like crazy living in NYC ($1,000/month rent with roommates) and no income.

I love to get their tips on living better for less. Readers contribute their own tips and there are some brief articles as well. If you need help with something you can write in and get other readers to submit their answers.
Here are some examples.
Lunches to Love
Reader's Tips
Dry Cleaning Tips

At the top there is a topical index so you can find all previous entries related to the things you're interested in.

Working at a large company has its benefits

I used to work at a large company, one of the top 5 banks in the U.S. There were a lot of good benefits from working there.
1. Cheaper Health Benefits - it because my employer was more generous, or it might be because they got a better deal since they have so many employees
2. Employee Discounts - from the bank itself, from 4-5 different cell phone companies, museums, etc. (Now I work for a much smaller company and we still get cell phone discounts, but only from 2 carriers
3. Established Retirement Program - my company administered their own retirement program, so the money went in much quicker (right now it takes a couple of days to post - I'm not sure if this is because of my employer or our retirement program administrator)
4. Easier to change jobs without changing companies - the main reason this is a benefit is if you have 401K money that needs to vest or a pension plan. I had several co-workers change jobs within the company.

When evaluating a new job offer, don't forget to look at the benefits. They can add up to a lot over the long run.

Monday, April 03, 2006

To Buy or Not to Buy a Home

I'm living rent free thanks to the generosity of my mom and sister (I split time between their houses), but in exactly 5 months I will be getting married. Since my finance is also living with his parents, we will need to find a new place to live.

Now the question in my mind is whether we should buy a house/condo or now or later. We plan on living in the Bay Area for the rest of our lives(both of our families live here, good economy, usually good weather). We may move to a different home once we have kids, but that's in about 5 years. We can probably afford an $80,000 down payment if we bought in the next 3-4 months. If we put 20% down, that would be a home that's $400,000, which could only get us a condo now (the Bay Area is super expensive). If we waited, prices will probably go down as interest rates go up. The major benefit is we would be able to save a much larger down payment since my finance is still finishing up his graduate studies.

Any thoughts?

Weddings are Expensive

Yesterday I posted about attending my friend's wedding. It is a great honor to be chosen as one of her bridesmaids, but it is still expensive. Also, I forgot to include transportation cost. My fiance is going to drive down to LA and back for the wedding (about 600 miles round trip). I am hoping that I will be assigned to work in LA next week, so I can reimburse him some money for the trip (if I end up working Monday after my trip, I can expense a portion of the drive down). He is driving some of my friends as well, so they will help with gas expenses. Luckily he has a Prius (last time we drove down, we averaged 40 mph).

For my own wedding, we've tentatively set a budget for $20,000-$25,000. It looks like we will be at the upper end of the amount and this doesn't include the honeymoon. Here are some of the main items
Reception $12,000 (includes site,food, and alcohol)
Photography $4,000
Videographer $1,000
Wedding rings $3,000
Dress and Alterations $1,000
Hair & Makeup $800
Wedding Site $500
Invitations, etc. $600
Cake $500
Chair Covers $500

As you can see, we're almost at $25,00 already. One notable thing missing from my budget is wedding flowers. That is because I have a good friend who is a florist and he going to give us the wedding flowers as a gift. I have another friend who is going to help on labor (I'm going to help with her wedding flowers as well). We will probably end up spending $200

Sunday, April 02, 2006

April Goals

I think setting goals are extremely important in moving forward. I'm often lazy and don't set goals, which is not good.
Here are some goals for April
1. Finish my taxes . . eek . .can't believe I still haven't finished them
2. Get all the addresses for my save the date cards (wedding in September)
3. Donate clothes from my closet (I've already culled out some that I really don't wear, now I need to stop off at Goodwill
4. Donate my car (see posting from March 31st)
5. Get my financial house in order. I am a fan of David Bach , who has a good formula for this, although it looks like he has a decent (not great) reputation among PF Bloggers. I skimmed his book The Automatic Millionaire, heard a sermon at church that mentioned him, and a light went off. I could do so much if I just did it automatically (I'm pretty lazy).
6. Tithe at least $700. I quite behind on my tithe. I wish I could catch up more, but my wedding costs are starting to add up.

Wedding Costs Adding up

This weekend, I am going to be a bridesmaid in my friend's wedding. The costs are starting to really add up.
$150 present (from me and my finance)
$40 bridal shower gift
$50 bridal shower (I should be reimbursed $150 from the other bridesmaids)
$45 bachelorette party hotel room (I should be reimbursed $135 from the other bridesmaids)
$25 bachelorette party dinner (estimate)
$40 wedding makeup (I am getting my makeup done at the mall, but purchase required)
$50 wedding hair

$400 total if I get reimbursed by the other bridesmaids
$685 total if none of the bridesmaids reimburse me

I got my friend a more expensive wedding gift than I normally would have since I thought it was so nice that she was buying our dresses (typically my finance and I spend about $100). However, I think we are paying for our own hair and makeup, which costs about the same as the bridesmaid dress. I could even do my own hair and makeup, but I feel obligated to go with the other girls. Yikes, this is not good for my budget.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Yesterday was a bad day for my car

I was driving home to work, on my way to pick up my bridesmaid dress for a wedding next weekend. Since there was a ton on traffic on the freeway, I decided to exit early. As I was braking at the traffic light, I felt my whole car vibrating. When the light turned green and I accelerated, the car seemed fine. At the next light, more vibrating. So I decided to drive a couple of blocks to Big O Tires. After waiting about 30 minutes they told me that I blew a gasket and that I should put my car out to pasture since it would cost more to fix my 10 year old American car than it was worth. I pressed the guy asking him how much it would cost and he said the high $2000s. Yikes. Big O was very nice and they charged me $0 for the whole consultation. While I was there, I also heard them call a woman and ask "Who told you that you needed new brakes? Your brakes are fine."

Throughout the experience, I was incredibly calm because of one main reason. My mom just bought a new car 3 weeks ago and she had enlisted my finance to help her sell the old one. My finance hasn't gotten around to it, so the car was sitting at his house.

It was the car my parents bought for my sister, but I inherited it after she graduated from college. It did have a lot of body damage (but nothing too serious) and I was a bit embarrassed to drive my coworkers around in it for that reason.
1. Cracked back fender and taped up tail light - someone hit my car while it was parked on the street. Since I used to only drive my car occasionally, I didn't know when it happened.
2. Scratches on one sides from when I hit the side of my parking lot entrance twice (yes I'm a bad driver)
3. Dent on the trunk from when the garage door fell on my car

My mom and my fiance had been bugging me to get a new car every since I moved back to California. For now, I will drive my mom's old car for a bit and then probably buy a new used car. Even if I didn't have my mom's old car to fall back on, I do have enough money in my emergency fund to get a new used car.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The post is in

Today was an awesome day in my mailbox. First I came home and I saw three packages. I received the stuff I ordered from ebay. I got some really cute stamps. Kind of a splurge, but very cute. My crafting definitely causes me to spend more money than I would if I were to just buy the items I make. Next I got two packages from bzzagent. I'm going to be bzzing about Ralph Hot, a new fragrance, and Nutella. Let me know if anyone wants a referral and I will be happy to share. Next I picked up the stuff from my mailbox and I got a check in the mail that I wasn't sure if I was going to get. I was out sick for 2 weeks and I filed for short term disability. I got rejected by the state, but the reason for the rejection was kind of an administrative reason, so my supplemental insurance provided by my company came through and paid me. Yippee!!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Miles and points - my way to keep track of them

As a frequent traveler, I get a lot of miles and points. I have found a cool, free program to keep track of all of my points from airlines, hotels, rental car companies, and even a few other programs like Amex Membership Rewards and MyPoints.

The USA Mile Tracker program is awesome! It's a free download. Just put in all of your account info (you can keep track of more than one person's accounts on one computer). You can access the program from your desktop and you can get updates as long as you're connected to the web. Then you can see how many points you have in Delta, United, American, Hilton, etc. all at once.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Usability Study

Today I participated in a usability study with Yahoo. For those who don't know what a usability study is (I wasn't too sure until I did it today), I was in a room with several cameras and a one way mirror. There was someone interviewing me as I interacted with a website. I signed some disclosure agreement, so I'm not sure how much I can say about the study. It was an hour long and they paid me $75 in the form of an American Express gift check. I was a bit worried since I was about 10 minutes late for the study. They called me when I was one minute late (I was almost there), but then I got lost after I spoke with them. The lady who did the study was very understanding. It did end up taking the full hour. All in all, a good experience. I don't think usability studies are like focus groups, so I hope I will get selected again. The woman said I was very helpful and I think I had some good suggestions. I found out about the study by checking out the etc section of craigslist. Very helpful if you live in a big city or in a place where craigslist is popular. I did some more 2 minute surveys for usability studies at some other software companies - hope I get chosen!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

About calgirlfinance

The best blogs are the ones that update frequently. However my occupation usually does not give me the luxury to do so. Instead I wander around the fringes of the PF blog community, commenting here and there. I did an inventory of my net worth, yet I was too shy to put it up. Let's say I'm somewhere in the mid-thirties, with the majority of it in retirement savings (like around $30K). I hope that as time goes on, I will be less shy.

I figure my eventual readers will want to know more about me, so here goes.

I live in the SF Bay Area. I am a consultant. I live with my mom. I am getting married in less than 6 months (then I will move in with the new hubby). Since I live with my mom, I am able to save a ton of money (like over 70%). I am Christian. I am behind on my tithing. I plan to get promoted in June (or switch jobs). I have been at my current job for 6 months. I like coupons. I buy 80% of my clothes at Ann Taylor. I always buy clothes on sale. I spend too much money on clothes (remember I am still saving 70% of my income). The only way I can do that is by doing direct deposits into my 401K, IRA, emergency fund, etc. I am planning on spending $25K on my wedding. I am paying half out of my own pocket. Before becoming a consultant, I used to bring my lunch to work 95% of the time. Since becoming a consultant, I have brought my lunch from home 0% (just very impractical). When I travel, I get a $64/day meal allowance, which I pocket if I don't spent it. Normally I make between $100-$200/week on my meal allowance (note this is extra money that I do not use to calculate my "savings" rate of 70%). I would make more on my meal allowance except I often go out to dinner with my co-workers. I am 26 and a woman (I hope you could tell by now). I am thinking about doing direct selling and have been for some time. I love doing arts and crafts, but it's hard for me to come up with ideas. More about me later.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

It pays to complain

I have always found that it pays to complain when something doesn't go the way it should. I had a recent experience with Hertz (car rental) to share with my readers (I believe there are a total of 0).

Hertz recently charged me $60 for a 3 day rental. The typical price is about $160. About one week after I received my receipt, they finally charged my credit card $160. I was shocked. I knew the original rental price was a mistake, but I expected them to charge my credit card the price stated on my receipt. By this time, I had already filed an expense reimbursement form. While I could have done an adjustment form, it was a hassle that I did not want to deal with.

So I called the billing inquiries department who insisted that they had charged me the correct amount. I asked if the item had been re-invoiced and they said no. After some pushing on my part, they put me on hold and transferred me to the local office from which I had rented. This person was able to see that I was originally charged $60 and she had no idea why I was charged $160. We agreed that there had been some sort of error. She put me on hold to do some research. Then she came back and said that there was an error with all of the Hertz computers that day and almost everyone had been charged for a one day rental rather than the correct number of days. I told her I understood that the problem couldn't be helped, but I was very shocked that I hadn't been informed that I would be charged a higher rate and since it took so long to get the charge on my credit card, I had no choice but to pay it. I also mentioned that I was a frequent traveler and a Gold member. After much back and forth, she finally agreed to refund my money. Yippee!

In the end, I saved no money since the item was fully reimbursable by my company. However I ended up feeling much happier. If it had been my own money, I would have been ecstatic about that $100. Now I just need to make sure that the credit appears on my card.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Shopping Spree

Last week I went to the mall with my finance. Since moving back to California, I haven't been doing that much shopping for clothes. One great thing about living in NYC is if you really want something at a regular store such as Ann Taylor (my favorite) or Gap, you can get it on sale if you're willing to wait and travel a bit. So last Saturday was somewhat of an anomaly for me since I went on the largest clothing shopping spree of my life! I got one great suit from Ann Taylor (over 50% off and very classic). My next purchase,a pair of jeans from Lucky, was a major splurge costing about $100 including taxes. I justified this purchase by the fact that I have sort of been looking for a new pair of jeans for over 3 years and I bought my last new pair over 5 years ago. I do still have several perfectly good pairs of jeans, but my 3 favorite pairs all have rips in them. I will still continue to wear those jeans and only wear this new pair for special occasions. This should allow this new pair to last my at least 5 more years.

My last purchase came at Lady Foot Locker. This normally isn't a store I shop at, but when I walked by, it definitely looked like the store was closing. There were no shoes on display and the whole store was a mess. Unfortunately my finance and I had to get back to his house for dinner. On the way to my house, I was still thinking about the sale, so we decided to go back to the mall. We got there 15 minutes before the store closed. Luckily the stuff I had picked out earlier was still there. While we were waiting to check out, I decided to try on a black down jacket. Now being February in California, this isn't something I absolutely needed. I tried it out, and it fit perfectly. However checking the price, it was $119. With the 50% off, that was about $60. I couldn't justify spending $60 for a jacket that I probably wouldn't wear until next season. As I was putting it back on the rack, the saleswoman informed me that the jacket was only $27, including tax. I was shocked! Since this was a Nike jacket, I thought I could probably get more for the jacket on ebay, if sold in the right season. I decided to buy it. It was unusually cold this past weekend. I snuggled in my warm jacket. My mom asked me if I needed the heater (she usually turns it off when she goes to bed) and I was able to say "no" without fear of being chilled since I was wearing my new down jacket.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

My Inspiration

I have always been interested in personal finance and financial planning. I've considered switching to that career, but I'm not ready to make that jump yet. I was ready business week when I saw a brief article about 2million. That led me to several other blogs including bostongalsopenwallet and myopenwallet. This is the beginning of my journey. As a female in her mid-twenties, I think I'm going okay, but I could be doing better. Right now I estimate my net worth to be about $35K. I need to do more to analyze this and come up with a concrete number. I have a date with Excel tomorrow.